By Joey Jones Associate Director, Athletics Media Relations
Panama City has long been known as a popular spring break destination for college students. The warm weather and white, sandy beaches attract thousands of young people looking for fun and relaxation.
This year, six Ole Miss football players are traveling to Panama City for spring break week.
But it's probably not the city you're thinking of.
Senior linebacker D.T. Shackelford (Decatur, Ala.) is leading a group of Rebel teammates on a week-long mission trip to the capital city of the Republic of Panama, where they will visit an orphanage, feed the homeless, speak to school-age children and run a free football clinic, among other activities.
Fellow Ole Miss players Justin Bell (Jackson, Miss.), Ontario Berry (Mendenhall, Miss.), Josh Richardson (Moss Point, Miss.), Kameron Wood (Birmingham, Ala.) and John Youngblood (Trussville, Ala.), along with team manager Lee Plaxico (Aberdeen, Miss.), also volunteered to use their spring break helping the less fortunate people in the southernmost country in Central America.
They are in Panama Monday-Friday this week before returning to Oxford on Saturday and immediately jumping into the team's first spring practice on Sunday.
The group is being led by Ole Miss football chaplain John Powell. The eight Ole Miss representatives are teaming up with 10-15 other college and professional athletes on the trip, as well.
"It says a lot about not only their character, but the environment that Coach Freeze and his staff have brought to this university," Powell said of the players' decision to use their one off week of the spring semester for a mission trip. "They understand the importance of giving back to those who are in need, and this opportunity gives them a chance to do that in a real way."
Powell is in his first full year as a member of the Ole Miss Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) staff and the football team's chaplain after serving as a regional FCA director in west Tennessee. He was the Lambuth University football team's chaplain when Hugh Freeze was head coach there.
Powell said that NCAA rules prohibited the players from raising financial support for the trip, so Powell raised support for the entire group of eight. He was overwhelmed by the response to his donation requests, as he received more than $1,600 above what was needed for travel and living expenses while in Panama.
"My hope is that we all come back realizing how blessed we are here and that will carry over into how we look at our teammates, how we serve our community, how we approach our education and being grateful for all those things," Powell said.
The idea for the trip was planted by a former Ole Miss player and current NFL wide receiver, Micheal Spurlock.
Spurlock, who was a quarterback for the Rebels from 2003-05, went on a short-term mission to Panama last year with Tampa Bay Buccaneers chaplain Doug Gilcrease and some teammates. Spurlock and his wife wanted to return this year but were unable to, so he reached out to his Ole Miss family to see if a group of current Rebels could go.
Gilcrease, who organizes short-term overseason mission trips for sports teams through Score International, got in contact with Powell, and Powell presented the spring break mission trip option in a players' Bible study. Six players and a manager expressed their desire to go, and now they are spreading the grace and mercy of God to the people of Panama.
So while these Rebels may not be lounging on the beach or partying with their friends in the other Panama City, they are gaining a spiritual and cultural experience they will never forget.
And they are using their influence and experiences as college student-athletes to bring joy and hope - and even a little football - to a needy people.
For the second straight year, Ole Miss' Deterrian Shackelford (Decatur, Alabama) has been nominated for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team®, which is one of the most coveted and prestigious off-... Read More [+]
Ole Miss baseball player Brady Bramlett was selected to represent the Southeastern Conference as a member of the NCAA Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). Bramlett's appointment... Read More [+]
The Ole Miss head track coach Brian O'Neal and assistant coach Greg Stringer opened up the Manning Center for the participants in Ole Miss' Horizons Summer Learning program on Wednesday (July 9).... Read More [+]
Mary Ashton Nall grew up around intercollegiate athletics, specifically college football. Her father, Hugh, played football at Georgia and coached at Ole Miss and Auburn. From competing in the NCAA... Read More [+]
Through the Rebel Relief Project, Ole Miss fans and area residents will have the opportunity to donate household and clothing items for tornado victims across Mississippi at various locations in... Read More [+]
The Ole Miss Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), is partnering with Purshoeing Joy to collect used shoes for children in Guatemala. SAAC members will be collecting shoes at Friday's (April... Read More [+]
Ole Miss Athletics Week in ReviewApril 28-May 4, 2015Baseball - The Rebels started the week defeating the Bulldogs, 11-1 in the annual Governor's Cup. The 10-run win for the Rebels marked the largest margin of victory in the 36-year history... read more
Welcome to Pittsburgh...and welcome to #SteelersNation, @Quez_G! #SteelersDraft pic.twitter.com/oY8wZc10Kk-- Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 2, 2015 Congrats Senquez Golson! Drafted 56th overall in the 2015 #NFLDRAFT by the Pittsburgh Steelers. #HottyToddy #FinsUp pic.twitter.com/EPGayDNOu7-- Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) May 2, 2015 Ole... read more
Six men with ties to Ole Miss were part of the inaugural class of 25 athletes and coaches inducted into the Scott County Hall of Fame this past Saturday at Roosevelt State Park in Morton. It is believed that this... read more
In a tie for 7th place at 7-under, @OleMissFB takes home $30,000 in charity and scholarship. #CFAPBGolf pic.twitter.com/qd0JzilyYR-- #CFAPBGolf (@CFAPeachBowl) April 28, 2015 The Ole Miss team of head football coach Hugh Freeze and Sean Tuohy turned in a strong... read more
The Ole Miss men's and women's tennis team learned their postseason destinations, as the men's and women's NCAA Tournament fields were announced Tuesday. The men, ranked No. 13 in the nation, are the No. 14 overall seed and will be... read more
Ole Miss Athletics Week in ReviewApril 21-27, 2015Baseball - During the five-game homestand, Ole Miss went 3-2 with a midweek win over Central Arkansas as well as claiming a weekend series over Alabama. - The Rebels recorded 68 hits throughout... read more
With a distance of 287-yards, the 2015 #CFAPBGolf Coaches Division Long Drive Champion is @CoachHughFreeze! pic.twitter.com/ProCdgbbg9-- #CFAPBGolf (@CFAPeachBowl) April 27, 2015 Ole Miss head football coach Hugh Freeze took home the long drive title at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Challenge... read more
Hugh Freeze and Ross Bjork embarked on the Rebel Road Trip, the baseball team claimed their weekend series over Alabama that featured the largest crowd of the season and the football program's NFL presence is expected to grow with the... read more
Ole Miss swept a doubleheader Saturday, defeating Alabama 10-2 in Game One and 4-0 in Game Two. As a pitching staff, the Rebels allowed just one earned run and scattered a combined 12 hits with 17 strikeouts compared to just... read more
Ole Miss head football coach Hugh Freeze will team with former All-SEC basketball player Sean Tuohy to represent the Rebels for the fourth straight year and compete for a share of the $520,000 total purse in the ninth annual Chick-fil-A... read more
Ole Miss Athletics Week in ReviewApril 14-20, 2015Men's Tennis- Ole Miss downed No. 22 Vanderbilt 4-1 to advance to the SEC Tournament semifinals for the 16th time in program history.- The Rebels rallied to take the doubles point and then got... read more
With a split of road matches at South Carolina and No. 8 Georgia, the Ole Miss men's tennis team moved up one spot to No. 13 in the nation entering the Southeastern Conference Men's Tennis Championship this week in College... read more