On the eve of their NAIA Football Championship Series (FCS) Quarterfinal Round game at Baker University, the fifth ranked Morningside College football team went out for dinner at a local Applebee's, business as usual for a college team of any kind on the road. However, on Nov. 30 what happened in Olathe, Kan., shows what small-college athletics is all about and why the NAIA, the GPAC, and in this case Morningside College, has some pretty special student-athletes who embody being Champions of Character.
Often student-athletes can make more of an impact off the field than on the field. This story shows why what you do on a Friday night in a restaurant may mean more than any touchdown pass thrown or caught in a college football game on a Saturday afternoon.
The following e-mail (and picture) was sent to Morningside Athletic Director Tim Jager and Head Football Coach Steve Ryan on Monday and is being shared with permission of the sender and Morningside College.
Mr. Jager and Mr. Ryan,
My name is Amber Miller and I am a 1999 Ottawa University graduate. I take pride in small liberal (arts) schools and felt compelled to share with you what my family experienced this past Friday night.
My husband and I, along with our two children (Holden age 7 and Kinsley age 5), and neighbors went to the Olathe Applebee's as we live down the street in Spring Hill, Kansas.
While dining, the entire Morningside football team walked in. I immediately recognized them as I knew they were playing Baker on Saturday. My son was in "AH" and begged me to ask for their autographs. I told him he could. The waitress and my son Holden approached a young man - I believe it was Darius Hicks and Holden asked for his autograph. Mr. Hicks was touched and responded with "Little Man.....I could do better than that!" He proceeded to get everyone on the team's autograph, along with the coaches. I can't tell you how happy my son was. Holden was glowing and couldn't stop talking about it all weekend long.
He asked on Sunday if "his team" won against Baker and I confirmed they did. Congrats!!!
Your team's compassion needs to be shared with others as this is what makes the NAIA what it is!
I wish you much success and Coach Ryan I remember you from Ottawa - congrats on your head coaching and raising a great team.
Spring Hill, Kansas