Pro team gets high school football team back on its feet
Throughout the summer they train, and once football season starts they put everything they have into the scrimmage-line battleground.
When tragedy strikes in their back yard, however, the Kansas City Chiefs put their hearts and minds toward something more important than pigskin tussles — community recovery.
On May 4, an F5 tornado leveled the town of Greensburg, Kan. During its 1.7-mile trek, the tornado destroyed 95 percent of the town’s buildings, stores and homes. The remaining 5 percent were said to be severely damaged.
In seconds, nearly 1,500 people were homeless. Businesses were shut down. The local school and football field were gone.
President Bush declared the area a disaster zone, enabling the distribution of federal funding.
The destruction of the town was devastating for the players on Greensburg High’s football team, the Rangers. A group of teenage boys went to bed the night before with only scrimmage lines and button hooks on their minds; they woke up the next day as men — with no practice field and no equipment — worried only about rebuilding their home.
Sports teams from the surrounding communities scrambled to get the team back on its feet, but the process of putting themselves back together still would’ve been daunting for the Rangers.
“I think (the team) would’ve been able to survive, but it would have been hard,” said athletic director Shawn Starr.
Then Kansas City Chiefs stepped in.
As a show of solidarity and strength for Greensburg, the Chiefs’ players showed up to summer training camp all wearing Greensburg Rangers caps. Each cap featured the Greensburg Rangers logo on the front and a Chiefs emblem on the back. Demand sparked for the caps, and the team decided to sell them online, with all proceeds going to re-equip the high school team. Within days, half of the stock was already sold.
The Chiefs didn’t stop there, however. Instead, they invited the team up to Kansas City. After footing the bill for the team’s stay in the Hyatt Regency, the Chiefs opened up the football field at the Derrick Thomas Academy for the Rangers to practice on.
Then, with the help of a police escort, the Rangers headed to the Chiefs’ preseason home finale against the New Orleans Saints. After a VIP tailgate meal, the team got a tour of the field during pre-game warm-ups and members were introduced to thunderous applause from the fans in Arrowhead Stadium. The Rangers stood on the sideline for the national anthem and were treated to box seats to watch the game. During halftime, the Chiefs presented a check — made possible through contributions from the Chiefs players, coaches and executives — for $50,000.
“This is something that’s going to last a long time,” said Starr. “The training equipment we were able to get we probably never would have been able to afford.”
Along with donations from sports equipment manufacturers like Nike, Reebok, Titleist and the United States Tennis Association, the athletic program at Greensburg is getting back on its feet. The team is now equipped and ready to play its first game against Ashland, Kan.
“It’s been a pretty busy summer for everybody,” said Starr. “They’re just trying to put their lives back together.
“Now they’re ready to get after somebody other than themselves.”
“This organization, as well as the National Football League, has taken a great step as far as trying to help the devastation in Greensburg,” said Chiefs Head Coach Herm Edwards. “They’re part of the heartland, part of the Chiefs. We have fans in Greensburg, and whatever we can do to help them is a priority.”
To purchase a Greensburg Rangers cap and support the recovery efforts in Greensburg, visit KCChiefs.com.