Soso Jamabo took center stage this weekend at the Rose Bowl.
The sophomore running back had a big first half, including a touchdown run off a Josh Rosen block, to help UCLA dominate its home opener against UNLV 42-21.
Winning is nice for any athlete, especially in front of fans at the historic Rose Bowl.
But at the end of the day, win or lose, football is only a tiny part of the big picture.
Even if the Bruins lost to the Runnin’ Rebels and went 0-13 on the season, a miserable and terrible record no doubt, the players are still student-athletes, living their dreams at one of the best universities in the world.
And more importantly, they’re alive and healthy.
Earlier in the day, the team greeted several kids on the way to the locker room – kids battling leukemia, organ failure and other life-threatening diseases.
Whether Soso scored three touchdowns or not, those kids still saw him as a hero.
Sure, student-athletes and students around campus regularly participate in community service, and corporations jump at the chance to partner with teams to donate money to charitable causes.
This season, UCLA partnered with Allstate “Good Hands” Field Goal Net program, which donates $300 for each field goal and $100 for each successful extra point conversion at the Rose Bowl to various college scholarship funds.
But it’s different seeing these kids, hearing their stories and immersing yourself in what they experience first hand.
It invokes something beyond what showing a flyer at Rubio’s in Ackerman Union to help your club’s fundraiser is capable of.
Simple acts go a long way and make a powerful, moving statement.
When Travis Rudolph sat across from Bo Paske – an autistic boy at Montford Middle school in Tallahassee – for lunch, the Florida State wide receiver not only captured media attention but also moved Paske’s mother.
Rudolph acknowledged the impact former players had on him when he was a kid.
“I remember what the impact was of guys that played in college and in the NFL coming back to us,” Rudolph told ESPN. “So I feel like maybe I can change someone’s life or I can make someone a better person or make someone want to be great or be like me, or even better.”
Star athlete or not, the impact he had on Paske will resonate with the boy years down the road.
Just like when Arizona State University’s Pat Tillman put aside a $3.6 million NFL contract to join the armed forces after 9/11.
Sunday was the 15th anniversary of 9/11 and Tillman passed away in 2004 after an incident of friendly fire.
I remember where I was, what I was wearing and what I was doing when my mom was explaining why Tillman’s death was significant.
I think about it every year – it’s something that makes me want to be a better person.
More than 10 years later, Tillman’s act is still honored today, synonymous with selflessness and sacrifice. Even though he played four seasons with the Arizona Cardinal, that’s not his legacy.
What Tillman, Rudolph, and the UCLA football team have continued is bigger than football.