May 6, 2010
By: Ryan Graney, Texas Media Relations
Giving back to the community and helping those in need is something that is extremely important to Mack Brown and the Longhorn football family. Coaches and players are often seen volunteering at Dell Children’s Hospital, with the Boys and Girls Club and at schools, to name a few.
Recently, a number of former Longhorns participated in a video game tournament with the organization Uplifting Athletes to help raise awareness for rare diseases.
“The event is part of a global initiative,” Uplifting Athletes founder Scott Shirley said. “Across multiple campuses we have college football teams participating in a coordinated event. This event is actually a video game competition where they’re playing the college football video game. They’re having fun with it. Once we have a campus champion here, they’ll play online against the winners from either Georgia, Penn State, Ohio State, Virginia or West Virginia.”
The cause is something that hits very close to home for Shirley.
“The organization started when I was a player at Penn State and my father was diagnosed with kidney cancer,” Shirley recalled. “We learned that because kidney cancer affects less than 200,000 Americans there was really no financial incentive to make or market new treatments. My teammates at the time had the idea to rally around this concept. We created Uplifting Athletes as a way for the players to get actively involved and take advantage of the position we’re in.”
With the current players involved in spring practice, a number of former players quickly jumped on board in hopes to help the cause. Former Texas defensive back Martin Egwuagu helped initiate the efforts to get the Longhorns involved.
“I saw an opportunity for us as athletes to use whatever celebrity we have to go out there and serve someone else,” Egwuagu said. “Uplifting Athletes helps makes awareness for rare diseases out there, so it’s a great opportunity to use what God’s given us to just make people aware out there that a lot of stuff is going on. Whatever we can do to make awareness for rare diseases, I’m up for it.”
The event was designed as a way for the athletes to have fun while supporting causes that many Americans know little about.
After several rounds of competition, defensive back Clark Ford and former wide receiver Kwame Cavil faced off in the finals where Ford eventually prevailed.
“It was real fun,” Ford said of the event. “We are here to provide awareness for rare diseases and raise money for that. We’re trying to uplift people and raise some money for a good cause.”
Cavil mentioned athletes should use their pedestal to support those in need.
“I’m a community guy,” Cavil said. “I make sure I come back to support good causes like this. Everything you can do (to help) you have to.”
Despite the fun the athletes were able to have during the tournament, they understand that they’re supporting a very serious cause.
“Our objective today is to create something that attracts people to get together that allows us to tell our story about rare diseases,” Shirley said.