Tymeco Gregory, right, a Wofford College football player, mentors at student at Jesse Boyd Elementary School in Spartanburg School District 7.
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Every college football player hopes he will finish the season with a legacy of having the most interceptions, scoring the winning touchdown, or making the tackle that saved the game. For Wofford football players, however, the legacy they hope to leave goes beyond the field.
This season, 40 percent of Wofford football players are participating in a mentoring program with Jesse Boyd elementary and E.P. Todd elementary schools in Spartanburg. The players go at least once a week to spend an hour with students at these schools and help them with homework, play games during recess, and be someone who will sit and talk with the youngsters.
“I was part of something similar when I was in high school,” Phifer Nicholson, a biology major from Plymouth, Minn., says, “and it was one of the best experiences to be able to learn and grow with those kids.”
Michael Harpe, an environmental studies major from Spartanburg, went to Jesse Boyd when he was younger, and personally knew how much of an impact the program can have. “I loved it as kid when older guys came to our school and spent time with us,” he says. “Now it’s my turn to be that older football player.”
For some players, only mentoring one day is not enough. “I feel that every moment with these kids is important,” says Jared Singleton, a business and finance major from Lugoff, S.C., who mentors up to three times a week. One of these moments occurred for Singleton at the Wofford versus Samford game. In the middle of a crucial moment of the game, Singleton says he could hear the elementary student who he tutors at Jesse Boyd waving and calling his name. “I turned and waved back at him, even though I probably should have been more focused on the game. I just know that every small acknowledgement, no matter the situation, gives these kids something positive in their lives.”
All players involved in the program agree that “you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do” to make time in the week to go the schools. Tom Bove, a history major from Baton Rouge, La., says coaches work with the players’ schedules. “It’s only one hour out of the week,” he says. “I can make that one hour work, and I wouldn’t miss hanging out with them for anything.”
Eric Nash, Wofford offensive line coach, says the players are helping the elementary students, but feels these students may be having a bigger impact on the players than they realize. “I believe that those who are mentoring learn to appreciate how great of a situation they are in and how blessed they are to be where they are intellectually, financially, and personally. These kids come from all different backgrounds, households and incomes, but they are all in need of some guidance in their lives.”
Nash explains that the mentor program was started by Nate Woody, former Wofford assistant football coach, 20 years ago and has continued to be an excellent outlet for football players to get involved. Nash, who is in charge of the players who go to Jesse Boyd Elementary, says this year’s program has seen a rise in player participation because several of the first-year students have chosen to get involved. Aaron Johnson, Wofford running backs coach, handles football players who go to E.P. Todd Elementary School.
“The best part of the program is seeing the results of our spending time with the kids,” Nicholson says. “We get to see their grade reports at the end of every week. All of our kids have been doing so well this year, and personally, I feel lucky that I get to be the one who tells them ‘good job’ after they have been working so hard.”
Written by Dana Nobles, Class of 2015