Players do well at doing good

More news about: Franklin and Marshall | Guilford | Ursinus
Tony Rosa, a senior wide receiver at Ursinus, co-founded the group Students Today Into Leaders Tomorrow, which mentors middle school students.
Ursinus athletics photo

Every college football player wants to do well, on the field and in the classroom. Many players also want to do good, on their campus and in their community.

Those players and coaches who devote what little free time and energy they have to charitable causes have learned that they benefit as much as those they help. Community service is a bedrock of Division III, and every program does its part to help its community. Some student-athletes go above and beyond the call of duty. Two such players, both from the Centennial Conference, were recently recognized as among the most giving college football players in the country.

Ursinus senior Tony Rosa and Franklin and Marshall junior Chad Tothero were named to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. They were two of five Division III players named to the 22-man team.

"I'm really proud that two guys from the Centennial made the team," said Tothero, the Diplomats' starting left guard. "It is a huge honor. I was shocked to make it out of 117 nominees."

Tothero grew up in the church and has been on five mission trips, including a trip to Honduras. At Franklin and Marshall, he started the Christian Athlete Ministry last year. As a member of team's Football Leadership Society, he helped spearhead a diaper drive that raised 7,500 diapers to donate to Water Street Ministries last week.

"We emphasize that we want our kids to become great players, but what makes them special and truly great is their ability to give," said Diplomats coach John Troxell.

"I also think that there are kids out there who would like to do community service but don't know where to start. Our team has a group of guys who will lead and get other guys involved."

Rosa, a business major and wide receiver at Ursinus, used his major to create a charitable organization that serves the greater Philadelphia area. He and classmate Tim Jordan founded Students Today Into Leaders Tomorrow (STILT), which mentors middle school students. The program started at one school but now serves three schools in the district. The organization has grown from nine students to 40 volunteers. One of the speakers STILT has brought into the classroom is Ursinus head coach Pete Gallagher.

"I think it's real important to give back to the community here," said Gallagher. "We get a lot of bright, talented students here, like Tony. It is important to understand that you are a part of a bigger whole."

Ursinus football players move in campus freshmen each fall and organize a bone marrow drive each spring. Two Bears players have been matched during the drive and helped save lives by donating their marrow. The STILT program helps students on the verge of high school, many of whom would be the first member of their family to graduate from college, learn about goal setting, teamwork, and leadership. Being a college athlete helps Rosa and his fellow volunteers get through to the students.

Franklin and Marshall offensive lineman Chad Tothero has been on five mission trips and helped spearhead a diaper drive that collected 7,500 diapers to donate to Water Street Ministries last week.
Franklin and Marshall athletics photo

"As soon as you say you're playing a sport in college, it grabs the students' attention," said Rosa. "It is a very good icebreaker."

The recognition is a reflection not just on the men honored, but on every volunteer who has given time beside them.

"It felt great for the organization as a whole," said Rosa, "for all of the volunteers who help out and put in the time to help the kids."

Some coaches, such as Guilford's Chris Rusiewicz, set goals for their program's community service. In his first year on campus, Rusiewicz hoped his team would put in 600 hours of service in the spring. The Quakers put in 902 hours, helping feed the homeless, volunteering at a soup kitchen and helping freshmen move in. The former Ursinus assistant has always made community service a priority.

"College kids want to complain sometimes, but I try to encourage them to realize how fortunate they are," said Rusiewicz. "I tell them to find a passion, find something they love, and find a way to volunteer to help that cause."

Rusiewicz invoked the Michael Jackson song "Man in the Mirror" as an inspiration to make a change in the world. His passion is going into schools and talking to kids who have self-esteem issues. He is moved when one of his players embarks on what the player initially feels is mandatory community service only to come back a changed young man.

"It is a humbling experience for the student-athletes to know that they're making an impact," said Rusiewicz. "It's not about us; it's about others."

The coaches know that the men they coach will go on to bigger and better things after graduation. They are happy to help their players realize their ability to serve before they head out to the real world.

"Our staff is trying to build leaders," said Troxell. "We always say how fun it is to know we are coaching future doctors, lawyers, politicians and businessmen. They lead by example, and when you have a group of unselfish kids, it makes it easier to get others to help in a cause."

Student-athletes such as Rosa and Tothero do not make such an impact alone. Teammates, classmates, families, and fans of each player embarking in a charitable effort help the cause. Both Rosa and Tothero plan on continuing to serve their communities for years to come. Their charitable nature will extend beyond their time on campus. For now, they are representing their teams, their schools, their families and themselves in a very positive way.

"What can I do for Franklin and Marshall to leave a lasting impact?" asked Tothero. "I want to leave F&M as a better place than it was when I got here."

Team of the Week: Johns Hopkins. The Blue Jays showed that they are still the class of the Centennial, handling Muhlenberg, 33-21. Johns Hopkins moved up five spots in the latest Top 25 poll, to No. 19. The Blue Jays took the lead on their first possession and never looked back, scoring in each quarter against a team that had only allowed one touchdown through its first three games of the season. Jonathan Rigaud rushed 21 times for 131 yards and a 56-yard touchdown that opened the floodgates. J.D. Abbott finished what Rigaud started, carrying 18 times for 98 yards and scoring two fourth quarter touchdowns to seal the victory. Through three weeks of conference play, only Johns Hopkins and Gettysburg remain undefeated. The Bullets won at Susquehanna, 35-24. Johns Hopkins hosts Gettysburg on Oct. 19. If the Bullets can get by the Mules on Oct. 13, the Friday night game in Baltimore will be the Centennial's de facto championship game.

Number of the Week: 87. Franklin and Marshall quarterback E.J. Schneider's completion percentage in the Diplomats' 45-38 win over Juniata. Schneider completed 26 of 30 passes for 319 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. His effort was needed to hold off an impressive rally from Juniata. Freshman Deonte Alston rushed for 150 yards and a score on 17 carries as the Eagles shaved a 21-point deficit to just seven with 62 seconds to play. Schneider's final touchdown pass of the day, to Frank Strumolo with just over five minutes remaining, proved to be the difference. Strumolo scored three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) to help the Dips avoid the upset.

Looking Ahead: Randolph-Macon at Emory and Henry. Expectations were high for the Yellow Jackets entering the season, but it is the Wasps who post the better record entering each team's ODAC opener. This should come down to which Kyle Boden shows up for Emory and Henry. The quarterback has been on a statistical roller coaster through three games, all wins:
     Week 1: 335 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions.
     Week 2: 99 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions.
     Week 3: 364 yards, two touchdowns, one interception.
Will McGhee has emerged as Randolph-Macon's top threat, rushing for 120.3 yards per game. The ODAC is going to be highly competitive again this year, and starting conference play with a loss will sting.

Quick Hits: No. 6 Wesley narrowly avoided losing back-to-back games for the first time since the opening weeks of the 2003 season. The Wolverines squeaked by Louisiana College, 25-22, thanks to a 31-yard Dan Tryon field goal as time expired. The Wolverines were outgained by the Wildcats, and Justin Sottilare was intercepted three times. Wesley also notched three picks, two by Luke Maginnis and one by Leon Jones. The collective exhale as Tryon's kick sailed through the uprights is followed by a welcome bye week. Yet another ranked opponent looms on the schedule as No. 16 Birmingham-Southern comes to Dover on Oct. 6.

The only two games on the slate involving ODAC schools led to mostly disappointment. Shenandoah lost to Bridgewater in its opening conference game as a member of the ODAC. The Hornets were held to just 212 yards of offense in the 17-14 defeat. The Eagles dominated the line of scrimmage, racking up 15 tackles for loss and two sacks. Andrew Palmer, Joel Francis, and Danny Grogg led the effort for Bridgewater. The Eagles remain a perfect 3-0 on the season.

Hampden-Sydney's perfect season came to an end as visiting Huntingdon knocked off the Tigers, 24-21. Holton Walker had a huge game in defeat, catching 11 passes for 151 yards and a score. The Tigers tumbled out of the Top 25 after the loss, but are hungry to earn their way back in. Quarterback Nash Nance sent me the following Tweet on Tuesday, unsolicited: "Hope you're ready for #HSCFB2012 There's a lot of upset guys after Saturday's loss. Not a good thing for the ODAC." Catholic will be the first ODAC team to face the angry Tigers as they try to bounce back quickly from their first loss of the year.

What Did I Miss? Do you know about any upcoming milestones, big games or new names in the Mid-Atlantic? Please share them with me. If you have suggestions for next week's column, please reach out to me at @adamturer or Enjoy Week 5!