Posted by Jeremy Pittenger on January 31, 2014
Accountability. Attitude. Teamwork. They might be just words to some, but to Aurora University student-athletes, the messages define character and inspire excellence. In bold blue letters on the walls of the newly renovated athletic facilities in Alumni Hall, the words serve as a reminder of what it takes to be an outstanding athlete and citizen. That Spartan spirit was recognized during halftime of the Sugar Bowl on ESPN earlier this month. AU senior defensive lineman Tyler Simmons was named by the American Football Coaches Association to the 2013 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, a program which honors football student-athletes for exemplary community service.
For Simmons, a mathematics major, Aurora University has been a place to continue his dedication to community service. The winner of a “Pay It Forward” award for his volunteer efforts in high school, he sought ways to give back as a college student, too. He participated in races to raise money for local charities, helped organize a fun fair at a local elementary school with the football team, assisted with a wrestling camp and high school team, and volunteered with the state chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
“Helping others has made me more grateful for what I have and more appreciative when someone lends me a hand,” said Simmons. “Volunteering with the football team was a fun way to contribute to the community and a great way to work together off the field. I’ve learned that no good deed goes unnoticed, and that while people might think something is insignificant, one action can make a tremendous positive difference in someone’s life.”
While Simmons received national recognition for his good works off the field, many Spartans share his commitment to volunteering. Collectively, student-athletes have spent time this past year at neighborhood homes helping residents prepare yards for the winter. They have sponsored and participated in canned food drives and made more than 100 blankets for critically ill children.
AU student-athletes also practice teamwork beyond their sport. The baseball team participates in a reading program for younger children. The volleyball team helps put on a sports clinic for Aurora youngsters. Men’s lacrosse members volunteer with a local Head Start program. Women’s tennis players hold a fundraiser to support breast cancer awareness. Men’s soccer players participate in a pen pal program with local elementary school students. The softball team walks in a benefit to raise funds for domestic violence initiatives. And the list of teams and their charitable activities goes on.
Nicole Pieart, Head Athletic Trainer, views participating in community service events with student-athletes as one of the highlights of her job. “Helping facilitate service opportunities for our student-athletes allows me to witness firsthand the joy they have from making a difference in others’ lives,” she said. “Fostering a humanitarian instinct in these student-athletes is something I know will stay with them long after they have finished playing sports here.”