By Richard Pera
On Friday, Nov. 15, David Brackett ’14 arrived at Wiggin Street Elementary, where he has been volunteering for the last two years. He was instructed to head for the gym, where Heather Waugh’s second grade class was supposedly doing a science experiment. Brackett, who normally worked with the students in their classroom, knew that something was up.
“It seemed a little weird,” he later said with a smile. “The hallways [of the school] are never that quiet.”
Brackett entered the gymnasium to be surprised by several hundred people: the entire faculty and student body of Wiggin Street, representatives from the College administration and Athletics Department, the coaching staff of the Kenyon football team and many of his teammates.
Brackett was presented with a trophy, officially naming him a member of the Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team. A panel of college football coaches, media figures and academic institution officials annually assemble this group of service-oriented student-athletes, composed of two 11-man teams: one of NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision student-athletes, and the other comprised of individuals from the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, NCAA Divisions II and III and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
During the award presentation, Brackett saw his second graders sitting in the gym bleachers. They had decorated signs that spelled out “THANK YOU DAVID.” He asked the students to join him at the podium, and they all ran up to him with big smiles, giving him hugs.
“No matter how little the action or the activity, you can be helpful in so many different ways,” Brackett said. “Whether it’s adding a math problem [or] tying a shoe, those little things [help]. They’re so young; they’re soaking everything up like sponges.”
While assisting at Wiggin Street, Brackett was so moved by mentoring grade schoolers that he convinced his football teammates to volunteer. He has also worked at Flying Horse Farms, a camp near Mount Gilead, Ohio founded by Paul Newman ’49 for children battling serious illnesses. Brackett said he hopes his award will inspire Kenyon students to volunteer, particularly at the elementary school.
“These teachers here are phenomenal,” Brackett said. “Having one or two more hands in the classroom to [help them] teach is really integral to improving the quality of the school.”
Brackett was one of just three NCAA Division III student-athletes to be named to the Good Works Team. Competition for a spot on the team was fierce.
“We have to pick 22 kids out of the hundreds [of nominations] that we get,” said Dan Keats ’97, Director of Integrated Marketing Communications at the Allstate Corporation. “It’s intense. David’s resume stood out among all the others.”
Keats made the trip to Gambier to personally present the award to Brackett. Like Brackett, Keats was an offensive lineman for the Lords during his time at Kenyon.
“This is the first time I’ve [attended one of these awards ceremonies],” Keats said. “I said, ﾑI’m getting on a plane for this one.’ To be able to present the award, and if nothing else, to shake [Brackett’s] hand as a representative of Allstate but also as attached to the school, is a very proud moment for me. ﾅ This is really special.”
Good Works team honorees will assemble in New Orleans, La. in the final days of December, where Brackett and his new teammates will participate in a service project. On New Year’s Eve, they will be honored at halftime of the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The presentation of the team will take place on national television.
In addition to being named to the Good Works Team, Brackett also served as one of the captains of the 2013 Kenyon football team. Hailing from Ahoskie, N.C., Brackett has earned a first team, second team and honorable mention All-North Coast Athletic Conference selection during his collegiate career. Brackett, along with Kenyon teammate Ryan Rosen ’14, was also selected to play in the Taz?n de Estrellas (Bowl of the Stars) in Monterrey, Mexico, where they will represent the United States against Mexican college football all-stars on Dec. 21.