On Maryland’s scorching artificial turf field and nearly eight weeks before its season opener, Andrew Gonnella and his teammates collected a victory Tuesday.
The Terrapins raised more than $10,000 for the Boomer Esiason Foundation for Cystic Fibrosis through their Uplifting Athletes event in College Park, more than doubling their total from a year ago in an event that included the majority of the team’s roster.
“Being part of the Maryland community and being part of the Maryland football team, that’s kind of what we want to represent, someone who’s involved in the community and someone who’s a role model and someone who wants to give back,” said Gonnella, the chapter’s president. “Since I’ve been here, it’s always been promoted for every player to pick one thing you can do to give back. … This is just one way we can keep carrying that on.”
Yes, there were moments of competitive hilarity, including a look of relief on the faces of several wide receivers when they learned the final portion of the event – a tire flip that surely would have made Magnus Ver Magnusson proud – would be contested exclusively by linemen.
In a preview of how things unfold during summer camp, it was offense vs. defense. And in this case, the defense earned a victory.
“Any time you can beat the O-line and anytime you can get the W, that’s always good,” defensive tackle A.J. Francis said. “It’s always the best thing you can do. You saw me rub it in a little bit and run backwards with the weights in my hand. Sometimes, you have to show them who’s boss.”
(A rebuttal comes from offensive tackle Justin Gilbert, offering the sort of insight unlikely to be gleaned from someone who hasn’t shoved an oversized tire around a practice field more than most folks: “On the record, the black tire [used by the offensive line] is heavier than the red tire.”)
Yet realistically, the most impressive development (and one of event organizers’ biggest priorities) was to improve upon the team’s event last year just after Maryland’s chapter was initially organized. With greater organization, the team attracted some alums – Torrey Smith, Antwine Perez and Adrian Moten among them – as well as a crowd.
“We didn’t have a lot of time as far as preparation, so this year we started earlier, we got a bunch of fliers out, donation incentives,” said Louis Berman, a former Maryland fullback who will graduate next month. “We came together with other chapters that are in this Uplifting Athletes community and tried to really get this event the best we could.”
The Terps, who have one of nine chapters nationwide, got some help when coach Randy Edsall donated $5,000.
Still, they needed commitments from others – and will still take some assistance – to reach $10,000.
“We wanted to double last year,” said Gilbert, who is a co-vice president for the Maryland chapter along with Berman. “As long as every year we’re making more, it’s kind of one of those things whether we make a dollar or $10,000, as long as we’re giving back and stuff like that, it helps. Everywhere we can get it, it helps.”
It’s also notable this particular group is entirely student-run; the fundraising and publicity for Tuesday’s event almost exclusively was generated by Maryland’s players.
“A lot of people see us on Saturdays and they think all we do is just play football, but we actually give back to kids and stuff like that all the time, so the more they can see that, the better,” Francis said.