Thursday, June 9, 2011

Missouri football players spend a day volunteering in Joplin

Pinkel has been coaching college football players for more than 30 years, and if he ever wondered how to get a busload of them quiet, he unlocked the mystery Friday.

Drive them through a war zone.

“Oh … my … God.”

That’s all Pinkel could say as the White Knight coach bus crept east on 15th Street in Joplin, giving Pinkel and his Missouri football players their first view of the town leveled by last month’s tornado.

Jaws hung wide open. Camera phones clicked. Thirty-two college football players sat in silence, with sheets of glass separating them from the carnage outside.

They saw houses ripped open, roofs blown off and walls torn down.

Trees were uprooted like weeds in a garden. The trees left standing were stripped down to trunks and shorn limbs, like a kindergartener’s stick-figure drawing.

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Street signs were scattered across lawns. Stop lights, too.

“Look, there’s a mattress up in that tree,” Pinkel said, breaking the quiet.

For the group of players who volunteered their Friday to help clean up the tornado’s path of destruction, this was their first taste of reality.

“You see so many things on TV, but it’s not real until you’re actually there,” wide receiver Wes Kemp said a few hours later. “Now, it’s like, that’s where somebody lived. There’s thousands of people who don’t have homes right now. Where are they right now? They’re just scattered with friends and family. It just makes it so much more real.”

The day had just begun.

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