By Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer
It has been head coach Mark Ribaudo’s mission to strengthen ties between Eastern New Mexico University football players and the community.
During the spring semester, ENMU players totaled more than 5,000 hours of community service in the Portales/Clovis area.
Community projects included helping kindergartners at Brown Elementary in Portales to read, talking to students in Clovis elementary schools about making good choices, helping with National P.E. Day for public school students in Greyhound Arena, a football camp for kids, attending city council meetings and doing yardwork.
Floyd graduate and junior running back Fide Davalos said he enjoyed the experience.
“I think it’s a good reflection of the team,” Davalos said. “It has helped to defeat the stereotype of athletes always getting in trouble. In many places, you can’t put a face to an athlete, but not here. Here the people can put a face to the athletes. We are role models.
“Since coach Ribaudo became head coach, he’s made a change so that we are more involved with the community. He wants the community members to experience the Eastern family and be a part of it.”
Players were divided into eight- to 10-man teams and the players came up with community service projects like reading to children in public schools, cleaning up Portales and holding football camps. The players would accumulate points for the amount of community service projects and the time dedicated to the projects.
Coaches cooked steak dinners for the players of the top two teams.
“They did a good job,” Ribaudo said. “It was really good to see. I tell our kids, you have to know what you’re playing for. The kindergarten kids look up to you. You’re their superhero. You’re playing for the working man, for the dairy worker and for the members of the community.”
Davalos’ team worked with kindergarten teacher Deirdre Washburn at Brown Elementary in Portales for an hour every Wednesday. They helped her students read as well as other activities — including making caves and rockets out of large boxes.
“It was really awesome,” Davalos said. “We were just as excited to see the kids as they were to see us. They see us as role models.”