Found May 16, 2012 on College Football Section:

The college football off-season is generally filled with news of coaching changes, recruits tweeting, fans tweeting recruits about their decisions, and players arrests. It gets old reporting on all of this bs after a while and sometimes you have to look for something positive to write about.

Well, Yahoo!’s Dr. Saturday, Graham Watson, has done just that, reporting on the Southern California players who recently visited Haiti on a mission trip.

Matt Barkley, punter Kyle Negrete, and center Khaled Holmes decided that they would get together for one last hoorah and make it for a good cause. They decided to visit Haiti to help build homes for the 2010 earthquake victims. It was supposed to be just the three of them initially, but as Watson reports, more players found out about the trip and wanted in. Sixteen Trojans made the trip and that’s because the group had to be cut down to 16, but many more wanted to make the trip.

USC is currently ranked in my top 3 heading into the 2012 season (top 25 coming later), and with good reason too. The return of Barkley cements their place at the top of the rankings. This trip could help bring this group of young men together around their potentially top 5 NFL draft pick quarterback heading into the season more so than they already are.

“This is an opportunity to serve as well for our teammates to kind of grow and gain perspective and try to do one last thing before my life gets crazy, before all of our lives kind of separate after USC and this is like the perfect opportunity,” Barkley told Yahoo! Sports.
“It’s going to be a neat opportunity for these guys to have their eyes opened to true poverty and true struggle that’s going on in the world rather than the so-called struggles that we have here in Southern California. I think seeing the young guys hop on board and guys you wouldn’t expect go on a mission trip like this and want to go full force, it’s encouraging to know that you might be having an impact on them.”

The players will be building four homes for four families and will begin construction on an orphanage. The six-day trip isn’t a long one when thinking about building houses, but a group of guys as driven and focused as a football team can knock out quite a few homes pretty quickly.

This isn’t Barkley’s first mission trip either, he’s been to Mexico, South Africa, and Nigeria on mission trips.

“I think what’s so unique is the amount of the guys going and just the size of the group,” Negrete said. “Obviously there’s a bunch of great stories about people doing great work around the world. But you don’t ever see 16 blue chip recruits when they came out of high school — the best players in the country — and guys who were involved in the gang life and to think that now they have an opportunity to now go to Haiti and serve people. I think that is what’s so unique about this.”

As USC prepares for the 2012 season with all eyes on Barkley, they will have exposed themselves to much more important issues than football. The realization that they are all lucky young men will be planted squarely in their minds as they return from a 3rd world country where homes are one room shacks with blankets on the floor. These young men have a chance to do some good when so many of their peers are getting into trouble.

USC will be bowl eligible this season, and Lane Kiffin’s team will be expected to finish high. While the Trojans may be ready for a national title run, what’s a national championship compared to the experience of helping people in need?

[Thanks to Graham Watson at Yahoo!'s Dr Saturday]

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