They came to plant. They came to dig. They came to haul.
“They call me the hay king,” Elijah Hood, the North Carolina junior running back, said.
He was pushing a wheelbarrow, overflowing with hay, down a quiet neighborhood street. All the houses there had been built to provide homes for people in need.
Hood was one of about 150 UNC athletes who participated in a day of service on Saturday with Orange County Habitat of Humanity. Larry Fedora, the Tar Heels football coach, said his entire team was there.
Justin Jackson, Luke Maye and Kenny Williams represented the men’s basketball team.
“We thought it’d be kind of fun to have all the students together,” Bubba Cunningham, the UNC athletic director, said after members of a variety of sports – football, track and field, baseball, men’s basketball, women’s soccer – had shown up to volunteer.
It was the UNC athletic department’s largest community service event of Cunningham’s five-year tenure, he said. It might have been the largest ever.
Usually, various teams have their own days of service. This time the idea was bigger.
So big that one of the staff members on site Saturday said UNC’s athletic department provided the largest contingent of volunteers in Orange County Habitat history.
Those UNC athletes worked from 8 a.m. to noon. They didn’t build houses – coaching staffs might have had a problem with some of their players handling saws, for instance – but they did a variety of odd jobs.
Mitch Trubisky, the UNC quarterback, directed a group of football players who spread compost. Jackson, the Tar Heels’ forward who decided to return to school after going through a the NBA pre-draft process, helped a bunch of athletes paint. Some dug a fence line.
“Do you even know what that’s called?” Fedora asked one of his players, who was digging away.
“They don’t have those in Ohio,” someone else said.
“It’s a pick, coach,” another player said, clearing it up.
Fedora had on some work gloves, too. He looked at home behind the wheel of a well-worn white pick-up, ladders hanging off it, hauling loads of hoses and aluminum siding down the road and back.