17 local football players awarded as ‘Unsung Heroes’ for their service and volunteerism

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The Syracuse Central Institute of Technology varsity football team started its season with a losing streak, but eventually became the first team in school history to win a playoff game.

After losing their final playoff game of the 2021 season just before the Championship, the players were unsure what to do next. The loss meant that the students’ time in teams could be over.

Isaiah Goodrich disagreed. A high school junior who plays multiple positions on the team, Goodrich believed the team should shift to serving.

Goodrich, co-captain of the team, has been attending Abundant Life Christian Center, a church in Cicero since he was 5 years old. After the loss, he gathered his team to volunteer at the church’s Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway – the start of a journey of service for young men.

The group of 17 college football players received one of Syracuse University’s 2022 Unsung Hero Awards, which honors members of the community who positively impact the lives of others but are not widely recognized for their contributions.

“We just wanted to go out into the community and help the people who came to our games and supported us on the sidelines,” Goodrich said. “I thought it would be a way to bring us all together – do something positive that will make people smile while having a great time with each other.”

Goodrich gathered his team to volunteer at the church’s Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway — the start of a journey of service for young men. Courtesy of Isaiah Goodrich

Some of Goodrich’s teammates had previously served. But the organization and teamwork involved in the Thanksgiving campaign, where they helped distribute more than 400 meals, seemed greater than anything they had done before, said Tyshawn Taylor, a wide receiver from the team.

“It just sets the tone for the real person that you are,” Taylor said. “Not only do you care about the sport of football, but you care about things outside of football.”

The group wasn’t finished after the Thanksgiving drive. Many students worked on a bike giveaway in December. Goodrich and some of his teammates went on to create the Athletes for Community Engagement program, which focuses on showcasing other young athletes in the city.

Goodrich believed it was necessary to inspire and uplift even younger members of his community.

“It’s a way of leaving something positive for the younger generation,” he says. “We’re pretty young, but kids younger than us see what we do.”

ACE’s first program, Kicks for Kings, was aimed at raising money for college kids to buy new sneakers and other sporting goods.

In just one week, Kicks for Kings has raised over $1,000.

Nat Teska-Prince, an offensive and defensive lineman on the team, thought it was important for the students to be role models for the kids they raised funds for.

“When you do something good for the community as a student athlete, people who are a little younger than you, like in college…they might want to do the same thing you did because they see that you are recognized for what you do,” Teska-Prince said.

Cedric Stevens, the team’s head coach, wasn’t surprised when Goodrich and the others first showed up for Thanksgiving practice. He was proud of the students for taking the initiative to start serving without prompting – a leadership style he said was common among his team.

“You are a direct reflection of your community,” Stevens said. “That’s what our church community is about – kids giving back like that.”

While Goodrich was proud of his teammates for what they’ve done in the community so far, he made it clear that ACE isn’t done serving those around them and sending a clear message to others.

“We are not just athletes or student-athletes. We are the stewards of our community. said Goodrich. “I wanted to destroy the image that we are no more than we seem. We are actually loving, kind young men who are more than just strong people on the pitch.


Contact Richard: [email protected] | @richardperrins2

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