Football Finds Time To Give Back

The football team selected its game against Muhlenberg last season to serve as Autism Speaks Awareness Day.

Calling Susquehanna University football players “busy” might be the understatement of the year. They juggle classes, practices, workouts and weekend games and still manage to maintain some semblance of a social life. It would be easy to give them a free pass to enjoy the little down time they have, but if there is one quality SU players are not short on, it’s ambition.

Last spring, senior captain Ryan Schumann approached Susquehanna offensive coordinator Nate Milne and asked if it would be possible to designate one of the team’s 2010 home games as a fundraiser for autism.

In 2009, the team picked a home game to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer research. Schumann’s hope was that a similar day could be chosen the next fall to raise autism awareness, as well as donations for the Autism Speaks foundation.

Schumann’s younger brother, Hayden, was diagnosed with autism in 1996, and Schumann says something Milne had the team do during the spring was an added inspiration behind his idea for this year’s fundraiser.

“Last spring, Coach Milne gave each of us a 3-by-5 index card and asked us to list the things that were important to us, with the first one being what was the absolute most important thing to us,” Schumann says, “and my number one was my younger brother.”

Schumann’s family has a long history of involvement with Autism Speaks, having volunteered at other fundraisers for the organization, as well as the Special Olympics. So, with the full support of Milne, the rest of the coaching staff and his teammates, Schumann ran with the idea.

SU selected its game against Muhlenberg in September to serve as Autism Speaks Awareness Day, and the team rallied to raise as much money as it could for an organization that had such a personal connection to one of its own teammates.

During the week leading up to SU’s home game against Muhlenberg, the team set up a table outside the school bookstore where players took shifts collecting donations and distributing information about autism. In addition, head coach Steve Briggs challenged each of the players to raise at least $5 on his own.

At the game, Schumann’s immediate family, including Hayden, received a warm welcome from the entire team and had a spot on the sideline for the game.

Perhaps the highlight of the day, at least in Hayden’s eyes, was when the captains escorted him out onto the field to take part in the coin toss. Schumann held his younger brother by the hand as the four football players and Hayden proceeded together to midfield for the pregame toss.

“Hayden had a great time,” Schumann says. “He loved being around the players, and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to introduce him to.”

The team’s awareness and fundraising efforts did not end after the coin flip, however. A portion of the gate proceeds went to the pool of donations the team had already collected, as did the money gathered by the cheerleaders during halftime as they worked their way through the stands collecting contributions.

In total, the weeklong effort raised $1,650 for Autism Speaks, ensuring that the Susquehanna football team’s impact on the organization will last far longer than those seven days.

Contributing writers to the Scoreboard section are Katie Meier, director of athletics communications, and Justin Lutes, assistant director of athletics communications.

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