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Football Mocs making a difference in teens' lives

Members of the Chattanooga Mocs football team shoot basketball with the boys from Bethel Bible Village every week. The kids love it. PHOTO: WTVC Sports

Many times we hear stories about college athletes or teenagers in a bad light.

But not tonight. Chattanooga Mocs football players are making a difference in the lives of wayward teens.

Bethel Bible Village, which houses teens in crisis, has partnered with the Mocs, who spend valuable time with these boys.

Trust, friendships and right decisions in life are coming out of it.

The Mocs have put two weeks of spring practice in the books.

Aside from school and football, some players have another important obligation.

Every week 10 players spend about an hour with the boys of Bethel. They often play basketball.

16 year old Daniel Hudson ended up here because he was truant and got into trouble.

These players mean a lot to him.

Hudson said, "Man it's the best thing, really. They teach us a lot about God and about just like life."

Basketball is the game but talking, and listening is the goal.

Mocs freshman OL McClendon Curtis explained his role. "I let them talk to me more than anything. I'm here to help them."

The 6'8" Curtis is Hudson's favorite. "He's a big ol' dude. You really don't see many people that big. But you know he's cool, cool guy."

At first, Kadeem Wise, UTC's Director of Football Operations, said the kids were reluctant to meet the players. But after a few visits, that changed. "But now we come in, we're high-fiving, we're smiling. They're telling us about stuff throughout their day, they're telling us about their family. We're growing closer as a group."

Safety Jerrell Lawson and Jay Fant have bonded.

They're both from Alabama and play the same position.

Lawson said volunteering felt like a natural thing to do. "I figured why not, growing up I was just like some of these kids. I made some bad decisions in the past and I just wanted to let them know that doesn't make you. That doesn't make or break you."

One can tell from the look in Fant's eyes, he's made a good friend. "And he's a college football player and I want to play college football after next year and I feel like having somebody with the same goals as you is just like cool to be around and stuff," Fant said.

14-year-old Ashton Skelton has also seen some benefits from the visits. "They've taught me how to respect people, how to approach the right conversations, stuff like that."

And the Mocs are making the most of this hour a week. Lawson noted, "It's definitely a responsibility. We're going through workouts and practices all throughout the week and sometimes you wonder, 'Hey I'm kind of tired today,' but you know in your heart and in your mind that you cannot let these kids down."

And clearly, they haven't.

Bethel house parent Cody Rogers has noticed a difference.

Rogers said the boys have learned to open up about their problems and get outside of their small circle of friends.

Bethel wanted to make this a monthly program, but coach Tom Arth opted for weekly.

Much to the delight of the boys at Bethel, the visits will last until the end of this semester.

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