Dec. 22, 2013
ST. PETERSBURG -- A trip to the 2013 Beef `O' Brady's Bowl has provided the Ohio University football program with an opportunity to put an exclamation point on its season with a third straight postseason victory -- not to mention a chance to enjoy the Florida sunshine and sandy beaches.
More importantly, though, the bowl berth has also given the Bobcats an opportunity to give thanks to those who have sacrificed so much to serve the United States of America.
Ohio's five team captains joined the university's cheerleading and dance teams and mascot Rufus The Bobcat in a visit to the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System facility in St. Petersburg on Sunday (Dec. 22). Bowl opponent East Carolina University's football student-athletes and spirit squads also joined the Bobcats in offering words of encouragement, posing for photos and signing autographs for a group of veterans at the facility.
The focus of the Bay Pines VA Healthcare Facility is to deliver healthcare to eligible veterans. The C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center campus in St. Petersburg serves approximately 103,000 veterans and includes a Residential Treatment Program that helps veterans with issues such as homelessness, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Ohio's five senior captains - running back Beau Blankenship (Norman, Okla.), cornerback Travis Carrie (Antioch, Calif.), wide receiver Donte Foster (Guthrie, Okla.), linebacker Keith Moore (Grove City, Ohio) and quarterback Tyler Tettleton (Norman, Okla.) chatted with the veterans about football, military service and life in general.
"It's awesome," said Blankenship of visiting with the veterans. "They served our country, and I love spending time with these guys and thanking them for all that they've done. It's been a great experience."
Bay Pines Chief of Voluntary Service Nathan Witt said Ohio and East Carolina visiting the facility "means everything" to the veterans.
"Veterans always need folks to lift them up," said Witt. "It especially means a lot to them whenever it's young people, because they can see that a young generation appreciates the sacrifices that they've made and are willing to take time out of their busy schedules to say thank you."
One of the veterans the Bobcats had the opportunity to meet was Dean Greathouse, a native of the Portsmouth, Ohio area who joined the U.S. Army out of high school and served in Operation Desert Storm as a gunner. He later served as a recruiter and drill instructor, totaling 22 years of military service.
Greathouse played football for Lewis County High School in Kentucky and recalls a 10-0 regular season as being the highlight of his career. He plans to attend the 2013 Beef `O' Brady's Bowl on Monday (Dec. 23) and says he will be cheering on the Bobcats.
"They're a bunch of great guys, and I appreciate them coming here," said Greathouse of meeting the Bobcats. "I've been talking to my parents about the game, and I think they'll be watching it on ESPN. Hopefully, one of your receivers can catch a touchdown pass and throw us a ball. I'll definitely be cheering Ohio on."