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.
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 [+]
Even in the midst of a busy spring football schedule and their academic pursuits, members of the Ole Miss football team were able to take a trip to the state's capital city last Thursday when they ... Read More [+]
- Ole Miss track and field student-athletes recently participated at a "Move Mississippi" event at the O-U Methodist Church. The Move Mississippi initiative was started last year and helps to fight... Read More [+]
Ole Miss will be honoring the athletic achievements of the past year at the fourth annual Rebels' Choice Awards on Monday, March 31 at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for Performing Arts. The semi-form... Read More [+]
This is a new concept we've created for the Ole Miss Sports Blog that we're calling Observations from the Best Seat in the House. The idea of this weekly feature will be to bring you all some of our observations... read more
The No. 18 Ole Miss football team won the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game defeating Boise State 35-13. The Rebels move into Southeastern Conference next week with a road test at Vanderbilt from Nashville's LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans. The... read more
ATLANTA -- Boise State had been the highest scoring team in the nation, averaging 40.2 points per game dating back to the 2000 season. Highlighted by four interceptions, eight tackles for loss and big hits by several different players, the... read more
ATLANTA -- After an up-and-down first half, which included a touchdown and three interceptions, senior quarterback Bo Wallace and the Ole Miss offense found their stride in the second half, particularly in the fourth quarter. Leading 7-6 early in the... read more
Three areas to watch as Ole Miss opens its 2014 season in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game against Boise State from Atlanta's Georgia Dome. Contrast in Experience Boise State has one of the youngest teams in the country with 67 freshmen... read more
Here are three pieces to keep in mind as we look ahead to the Ole Miss volleyball team's season-opening weekend in Buffalo, New York, starting with Canisius on Friday morning, the first of four matches over three days at the... read more
For high school football players in Georgia, all roads lead to the Georgia Dome and the state championships. For a handful of Rebels, those roads lead home, as Ole Miss opens the 2014 season against Boise State in the Chick-fil-A... read more
ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy asked each of the 65 coaches from the Power Five conferences to describe their team in one word. Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze's word? Relentless. The same can be said of the Ole Miss defense. And... read more
After playing 110 minutes in a 1-1 draw with Georgia on Friday night, Ole Miss responded with a gutsy 1-0 win over Iowa State on Sunday afternoon. The defense, led by senior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick was the story of the... read more
Big time crowd for @SECNetwork live sports event debut. Record attendance of 1,823 for @OleMissSoccer Let's finish strong.-- Ross Bjork (@RossBjorkAD) August 23, 2014 Ole Miss kicked off the 2014 season in thrilling fashion, rallying to a 1-1 draw with... read more
Like defensive coordinator Dave Wommack, defensive line coach Chris Kiffin has been pleased with his players throughout fall camp, particularly the depth bolstered by the return of junior defensive end C.J. Johnson and the addition of sophomore Fadol Brown and... read more