Community Service

Special Olympics - February 2011

Athletes giving to communities

MRC&TC students work for positive involvement for school, area
Brian Miller
Mesabi Daily News
Sunday, April 30th, 2006 11:04:54 PM

IRGINIA — Mesabi Range football coach Dan Lind is well aware that the public perception of athletes at the school has been less than favorable over the past decade.

He and others at the college are on a mission to change that image.

“We’ve explained to our players that if we want to get more people in the stands and more support and have more positive community involvement with our program, we need to give something back to the community,” Lind said. “So that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to become more actively involved to bring positive changes to the community.”

In the past two months, Mesabi Range student-athletes have participated in charity work with the Habitat for Humanity, the Special Olympics and Adopt-A-Highway.

It’s been good for them to get out and show that they care about our communities up here,” Lind said. “We’re trying to do positive things, and not just with our athletic programs.

“(Mesabi Range Provost) Tina Royer wants to change the perception of the college, and she’s been working very hard to do that. They say perception is 90-percent of reality, and we want a positive one.

“There are always good things going on at the college, whether its a sporting event or a choir competition.”

In March, a number of volunteers from the college traveled to Biwabik to help out on a Habitat for Humanity project. They leveled off a large area of tailings and helped put up plywood amongst other things.

“We’ll do it anytime they ask,” Lind said. “I told them call anytime they need some help. (Mesabi Range Student Services counselor) Sara Schleppegrell said it brought tears to her eyes. It’s a great project.”

In the past month, a number of volunteers also helped out at a local Special Olympics clinic where they taught handicapped children simple basketball skills. Later, several student-athletes traveled to a competition in the metro area where they helped referee a Special Olympics basketball tournament.

“They were able to touch the lives of some kids,” Lind said.

This past Friday, 30 volunteers, 20 of which played for Lind on the gridiron this past season, showed up to clean up several miles of roadside for Adopt-A-Highway. “I guess they did the same project last fall and only four students showed up,” Lind said. “When I heard about it, I talked to some of our guys, and they were more than willing to show up and help out.

“It goes a lot quicker with 30 people than with four, obviously. We were able to split into two big groups and get a lot done."

“That’s a good project, too, to help the environment and keep the area clean.”

Lind is looking forward to his second season coaching football at his alma mater. He understands that recruiting locally is important, and he and his staff traveled all over the area to scout this past season.

“We must have seen every high school team in northeastern Minnesota,” Lind said. “We got to every game we could and recruited at least 30 kids in a 100-mile radius.

“But it’s tough getting local kids. About half of those 30 are pretty bright and have other good academic opportunities. That’s what happens up here. We have such good school districts that these kids can go elsewhere.”

Lind said much has changed since he played at the school three decades ago.

“It’s a lot different up here since 1975,” Lind said. “First, the population has dropped. And football isn’t as good as it used to be up here because of that. You couldn’t field a football team of all local kids up here like you could 30 years.

“The level of football has risen so much over the years. And it’s still college football. In this state, community college football has gotten a lot better across the board.

“Football’s different than some of the other sports. Up here, you can get local kids for baseball, softball, girls’ basketball and be competitive. You can’t do that in football.”

Lind said there are reasons so many out-of-state players come to Minnesota to play football.

“People don’t realize that Georgia and Florida don’t have any JUCOs (junior colleges). Those are football hotbeds,” he said. “And a lot of the JUCOs that give out scholarships in other states like Texas and Kansas limit the number of out-of- state kids they can bring in.

“So for a lot of these kids, this is their only opportunity to play. They can’t play at a four-year school and the other JUCOs are full, so they’re calling up, just hoping for a chance to play. We give them an opportunity.”

Lind is proud of having four academic all-conference players on his team this past season. Defensive lineman Tasi Fonoti of AlBrook, offensive lineman Andy Leinen of Tomah, Wis., and Michael Thomas and Brandon Johnson, both of Macon County, Ga., were all so honored.

“We have some pretty bright kids that come here,” he said.