SHAWNEE, Kan. -- The path to gridiron glory includes a lot of hard work.
Mill Valley High School's football heroes aren't afraid to sweat and serve their community. Even yard work isn't out of the question, as witnessed in the lessons in servant leadership their head coach, Joel Applebee, delivers.
Intense instruction has been coming on Saturday mornings, when as many as 26 Jaguar players gather to participate in Shawnee's Neighbors Helping Neighbors program.
The morning after Mill Valley's season opener against Blue Valley West, athletes became volunteers, as they helped clean up a yard that belongs to a senior citizen living in Shawnee.
Coaches said that woman had recently done a long stay in the hospital and was unable to care for her own yard.
Jaguar players pulled weeds, mowed grass and trimmed trees at no cost to the resident.
"The first community service project we did was with our O-Line and D-Line. It was the morning after the Blue Valley West game. It was a tough game. They got up. We had film, and they went straight to community service," Applebee said.
Mill Valley players admitted not everyone warmed up to the idea at first, but over time, it grew on them, and the unselfish teenagers got into the volunteer spirit.
While those players and coaches worked to beautify that messy yard, their coach's lessons in love sunk in.
"I`ll be honest. A little bit, yeah," said Ethan Kremer, Mill Valley defensive tackle. "Coach talked about the reasoning behind it. We need to give back to the community. They give so much to us."
"The lady has been in the hospital, and she`s been needing help. It`s been really good for our O-Linemen to come out and trim her trees, pull some weeds and clean off her deck. Whatever she needs around the house," said Kyle Kelly, Jaguars offensive tackle.
"We need to give back to the community that supports us. They did a good job," Kelly said.
Applebee said he expects to see these volunteer efforts continue into the fall and winter months, which means raking leaves and shoveling snow aren't out of the question.
"We even had one person who isn't on our team. They wanted to help out. They wanted to pitch in. That's leadership. It will continue to grow," Applebee added.