I like football, especially LSU football. LSU football and Joe Burrow, this year’s Heisman Trophy winner, have been all over the news and have become the darlings of my beloved home state.

Joe Burrow has broken all kinds of records. His personal story is one of triumph over adversity – finding a second chance at quarterback at LSU, when he transferred from Ohio State where he didn’t get much playing time. He’s spent the past two years in the bayou, learning to love the culture, crawfish, and gumbo. He has embraced his current role as a new Louisiana hero while remaining steeped in his Ohio roots.

For all his awards, accolades, and a college football playoff national championship to boot, it was his heartfelt acceptance speech at the Heisman Trophy awards that sparked emotion and propelled others to action. With tears in his eyes, he said this:  Coming from southeast Ohio, it’s a very impoverished area. The poverty rate is almost two times the national average, and there’s so many people there that don’t have a lot. I’m up here for all those kids in Athens and in Athens County that go home to not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school. For all those kids – you can be up here too.

Joe’s acceptance speech highlighted food insecurity issues in Athens County and resulted in an online fundraising campaign that has raised almost $500,000 for the local food pantry.

In an interview with NPR, Karin Bright, the food pantry president said, hunger is a real problem in our county. We don’t have much in the way of industry. So economically, we struggle and we’re rural, so transportation makes it very difficult for people to get jobs and be able to get there. People are struggling, and they do their best. But it’s really, really challenging here.

To help meet those challenges, contributions have poured in from all over the country – but in particular from Joe’s newly adopted state of Louisiana and his home state of Ohio. Two states linked together to fight hunger by the compassionate words of a young man.

Martin Luther King, Jr said – Not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great because greatness is determined by service….you only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.

Joe is famous right now and his influence has resulted in a powerful impact. His humble speech compelled Athens County resident, Will Drabold, to start the fundraiser. Greatness determined by service, generated by love.

While I was loudly rooting for LSU and thrilled with the outcome of the national championship game, there were two powerful examples set by Clemson coach Dabo Swinney that will forever remain etched in my memory.

Leadership determined by service.

During the third quarter, one of Clemson’s linebackers was ejected from the game for targeting. Throwing his helmet off and obviously upset, he started to make his way to the locker room. Just off camera, Dabo Swinney was running towards him. The scene that unfolded showed Coach Swinney hugging the young man and speaking what looked to be words of encouragement and affirmation. One coach making a difference in the life of one young man.

As the game inched closer to being over and it became apparent that Clemson would lose, the same scene played out between Coach Swinney and Clemson’s quarterback. Encouragement when it was needed most.

You don’t have to be in the national spotlight to serve, encourage or impact. In fact, most of us aren’t. Yet, we can all contribute to a positive impact in some way —  whether it’s a monetary donation to a food bank, a can of green beans, an hour of your time, or words of encouragement when they are needed most.  How will you be great today?


Wendy Berenson

Wendy Berenson

Wendy brings over 20 years of expertise in training and development, facilitation, and Human Resources to the InnerWill team and the clients we serve. She has a passion for helping leaders develop a culture of engaging employee experiences and has a unique knack for identifying the strengths of others and helping them reach their highest potential.

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