Georgia Tech basketball player Rand Rowland and football player KeShun Freeman have brought their school honor with awards commending their service to the community.
Both were named to the Allstate Good Works teams for their respective sports, citations for their contributions to the community. The Good Works team, established for football in 1992, is perhaps the most recognized award in college athletics for community service. Freeman was named in the fall, Rowland last week. Tech was the only school to have a member on both the football and men’s basketball teams this academic year. (Women’s basketball player Katarina Vuckovic made the team last year.) They’re an embodiment of the vision cast by former athletic director Homer Rice, whose Total Person Program has been replicated across college athletics.
Aside from having started at defensive end for three seasons, Freeman aspires to become a pediatric anesthesiologist and has actively supported Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta through hospital visits and fundraising.
“He will do anything you ask him to do,” said Leah Thomas, director of the Total Person Program. “I don’t know what we’ll do when he’s gone.”
Rowland, a former walk-on who was put on scholarship in January, is particularly proud of a program he brought to Tech to educate athletes about relationship violence.
“He’s a very humble guy, very selfless,” Freeman said of Rowland, who wants to coach college basketball after graduation.
It is the hope of athletic director Todd Stansbury that the charitable work of athletes of Rowland, Freeman and others like them, as well as the life skills education component of the program, will be as much a part of the identity of the athletic department as on-field success. And, naturally, that such an identity will lead to improved recruiting across the department’s 17 teams.
“That’s going to help, because I would say that there’s a lot of people that don’t know that it exists, and it has a rich history and one that we’re very proud of,” Thomas said.
Stansbury expressed his vision for the program’s role in the department at the time of his hire this past September. He said that for Tech athletes, graduation is the beginning of the journey, not the end.
“So our focus will be on the success of our student-athletes, and of course they’re going to graduate, but it’s what are they doing five or 10 years after graduation,” he said then. “And if you look at what Georgia Tech graduates are doing five and 10 years after graduation, that is our differentiator. That is what sets us apart, and that needs to be part of our brand.”
It would seem a strong sell to parents of prospects, the opportunity for their children to join a team where community service, mentorship and pursuit of excellence in all facets of life are part of the culture. It’s an environment that Thomas has helped foster through the Total Life Program and her advisory capacity with the student-athlete advisory board.
Among other purposes, the board helps coordinate service activities for athletes across campus and in the community. Rowland, a member of the board, is helping organize a bone marrow registry drive to be held Feb. 19, when both the men's and women's teams play at McCamish Pavilion, an initiative being pushed across all ACC schools.
“She’ probably one of the most underappreciated people in the athletic program,” Rowland said of Thomas.
In August, the department will make a service trip to Costa Rica under the banner of Yellow Jackets Without Borders. Stansbury implemented programs taking athletes on international service trips at Central Florida and Oregon State, where he served previously as athletic director. Tech athletes previously undertook a similar project under the auspices of the school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter, but this will be the first led by the athletic department.
“Things like that are things that he has a vision for and is willing to help and go out of his way to help fund and raise awareness to get funding,” Thomas said.
Stansbury has other ideas that he wants to introduce over time, Thomas said. It is no surprise that Stansbury has embraced the Total Person Program. Stansbury and Rice both arrived at Tech in 1980, and Stansbury was part of the first class to go through the program. At previous stops before Tech, he instituted similar versions of it.
“I think the future looks good,” Thomas said.