4 Heartwarming Stories to Celebrate the Kickoff of College Football

College football is back, and it brings with it some great stories to start off the season with reminders about what’s really important in life — especially after the controversy overshadowing the sport at the professional level.

Here are just a few stories that deserve high praise with the beginning of the season:

1. The Nebraska Huskers Play For A Teammate Gone Too Soon

Life is precious, and it can vanish when you least expect it. The Nebraska Huskers football team faced this truth when they recently lost fellow teammate and punter Sam Foltz in a tragic car crash. Former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler also perished in the same accident.

In their opening game against the Fresno State Bulldogs, the Huskers honored their deceased teammate by lining up for a play with one player missing on the field in the first quarter, taking a penalty for delay of game that was declined by their opponents.

2. Florida State University’s Travis Rudolph Makes A New Friend

It only takes one person to have a positive impact in a child’s life. Florida State University junior receiver Travis Rudolph wasn’t looking to be a part of a viral story on a recent trip to a middle school with teammates. He saw a boy eating lunch alone and decided to join him. The boy’s name is Bo, and he has autism. It turns out that eating alone is how Bo spent many lunches.

Remembering how former professional and college football players reached out to him as a child, Travis saw the chance to be both a friend and a difference maker in Bo’s life — even if it was just for one day. Now, we know about the encounter (thanks to a photo shared by Bo’s mother on Facebook). “I feel like God makes everything happen for a reason,” the Florida State football player said of the moment.

3. The Tigers Play For Louisiana

espn_baton_rouge_video_title_card_9-8-16-1Click to watch at ESPN.

There’s also the Louisiana State University football team, which plays in a state recently hit by flooding and more. Head coach Les Miles describes his team’s mindset as thinking beyond football. “We play for Louisiana. Then we play for team. And then we play for ourselves,” Miles said in a recent interview.

Leadership in a football program starts at the top. Les Miles is that leader, and those players are a reflection of him if they follow his example — regardless of the wins and losses.

4. The Georgia Bulldogs Give More Than Just A Helping Hand

Finally, we head over to the University of Georgia football program. The team has offered constant support to Southern University defensive back and special teams player Devon Gales, who was left paralyzed by a hit from a Georgia kicker. Recently, the football program flew the Gales family out of Baton Rouge to escape flooding.

When the next generation of football players band together for something bigger than themselves, we witness how their actions can uplift a community and individuals. It's encouraging to see these stories unfold, and the media should spotlight their actions more often.

Here's to recognizing even more of these kind of actions as season moves forward.

Visit Amazon.com to download the Kindle edition of Football, Faith, and Flannery O’Connor: A Love Letter to the South to see how the game of football is just one of the many treasures that brings together community in the South.