Originally written on Crystal Ball Run  |  Last updated 4/4/12

Highlights from Nigeria Trip 2010 from Matt Barkley on Vimeo.

At times as college football fans, we all (myself included) spend way too much time dwelling on the negative, and not nearly enough on the positive. Between the NCAA investigations, conference realignment, smarmy agents, smarmy athletic directors and smarmy TV executives, it’s enough to literally make you sick to your stomach if you think about it too hard.

Fortunately, for all the bad, we do occasionally come across a story which helps us realize why we love this game so much, and why for all the bad we keep coming back to it.

Today brings us one of those stories, courtesy of the kids over at USC. Lane Kiffin’s boys are wrapping up spring ball a week from Saturday, and will soon be transitioning into the off-season, where they’ll spend their time battling heavy expectations as 2012 BCS title favorites.

Well, that’s how they’ll spend part of their season anyway. That’s hardly all that some of their players will be doing however.

That’s because, led by their strong-armed, blonde-haired, next-to-perfect quarterback Matt Barkley, 15 USC football players will spend part of May doing some heavy-duty volunteer work. In conjunction with an organization called Hope Force International, and coordinated by the Barkley family themselves, the group will go down to Haiti, to help with the ongoing relief efforts after an earthquake crippled the country in January 2010. Amongst the players that’ll be headed south along with Barkley are prominent members of the team like wide receiver Robert Woods, safety T.J. McDonald and linebacker Devon Kinnard.

Anyway, according to a press release sent out by USC Tuesday, the group will go down the week after graduation, and help with a number of tasks, including building at least three houses and transporting more than 2,000 lbs. of supplies to orphanages and schools. Really incredible stuff.

Here’s a little bit more from the press release:

The Trojans will be aiding the Sous Savanne community in Haiti, which in many cases has been relegated to living under tarps as the only shelter.  Houses, bathrooms and supplies are of vital importance.

Not to get too personal, but this story hit me on a number of levels.

First, we simply need to commend the USC kids for sacrificing some of the off-season for the good of others. Sure part of this is about the incredible leadership of Barkley, a guy who has spent time previously volunteering in places such as Nigeria, South Africa and Mexico. However, it’s also about his teammates, many of whom will be cashing NFL paychecks of their own, who are also sacrificing their time this off-season.

Really, this all comes back to what I said at the beginning of this post: That in general, most guys in college football are good kids. For every one or two that we hear about who screw up, get arrested or manipulate the system in the favor, there are 100 kids giving back, and being positive influences that we never hear about.

And yes it is important to remember that these are just still kids. I found it funny that in the press release, Kinnard mentioned that he had to get a passport before the trip, because he’d never been out of the country before. It’s easy to forget that while these young men look like they’re 30, virtually all of them are 19, 20 or 21.

As for the relief work itself these guys will be doing, it’s simply staggering how much there is left to do in Haiti. Despite the fact that the earthquake happened over two years ago, the clean-up process is only just beginning.

According to this excerpt from the American Red Cross website, here is what has been provided through January 2012 alone:

•    Enough food to feed more than 1 million people during the height of the response
•    Daily drinking water for more than 317,000 people
•    Emergency shelter materials for more than 860,000 people
•    Cash grants and loans to help 220,000 people
•    Medical care for nearly 217,000 patients
•    Vaccinations for nearly 1 million people
•    Latrines for 265,000 people

And that doesn’t even include another $100 million which has been earmarked for future growth and development of the country’s infrastructure. As much good as has been done, there is still plenty more to do before the folks in Haiti have any sense of normalcy.

One final note, and that’s that according to the USC press release, you can in fact donate to the USC kids to help finance their trip (no NCAA violations here!!). Click here for more details.

Here is a full list of players who’ll be taking the trip:

Matt Barkley (and family), T.J. McDonald, Robert Woods, Khaled Holmes, Nickell Robey, Devon Kennard, Hayes Pullard, Kyle Negrete, Scott Starr, Josh Shaw, Cyrus Hobbi, Kevin Greene, Max Wittek, Cody Kessler and Luke Freeman.

For all his insight, opinions and articles on sports, be sure to follow Aaron Torres on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.


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