Building character: Vols help Habitat for Humanity

John Propst nails siding up on a Habitat for Humanity house in the 4000 block of Geyland Heights Road on Saturday, June 11, 2011. Members of the University of Tennessee football team will be helping to build the house all month long as part of the Vol for Life program.

Photo by Chad Greene

John Propst nails siding up on a Habitat for Humanity house in the 4000 block of Geyland Heights Road on Saturday, June 11, 2011. Members of the University of Tennessee football team will be helping to build the house all month long as part of the Vol for Life program.

Workouts and grueling sessions in the weight room are one way to improve team chemistry.

Andre Lott is taking team-building to an even higher level this summer though, starting by approaching that concept and applying it literally to a Habitat for Humanity home.

The Vol for Life coordinator helped set the foundation for his program last summer in his first year on the job, breaking the squad up by class for community service projects around the community. Now Lott is starting to add even more on top of it for the Vols, who are collectively spending the month getting up early and spending a day hammering, painting and roofing like the sophomores did Saturday in south Knoxville.

And based on the feedback Lott is getting from both the players and organizations around town, there could be much more to come as UT continues ensuring its own house is in order moving forward.

"We're able to do things like this and have a lot more opportunities now," Lott said. "People realize in the community we're looking to do special things, so I get a lot of emails, lot of phone calls and it's really huge this year, man. It's going to be great in the future.

"Obviously there's a lot of teamwork involved in doing this and everybody has to work together. They're doing great, and it's really good for us. It's a great way to give back to the community."

Aside from doing some positive work for others, UT is also getting some benefits in return as the VFL program continues to take root and reshape the culture around the team.

The Vols already spend plenty of time together in summer conditioning and seven-on-seven drills, though the teamwork and dependence on one another was clearly different as the sophomores went to work on the house Saturday morning.

Linebacker John Propst was working side-by-side with wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers putting up siding. Offensive linemen were lugging around equipment, and defensive tackle Daniel Hood was working up quite a sweat and getting covered in sawdust after volunteering to man the power tools.

And while construction work might not make the Vols better football players, the hard labor wasn't a bad workout and the bond they were creating could have a lasting effect as well.

"It's awesome for that," Propst said. "It just gets you out here in a different environment, spending time together with our teammates. We're always together in the weight room, so we kind of know how everybody reacts in certain situations. But we're just out here working hard, and it's good to have this camaraderie.

"This is a first-class thing."

Jawuan James nails siding up on a Habitat for Humanity house in the 4000 block of Geyland Heights Road on Saturday, June 11, 2011.

Photo by Chad Greene

Jawuan James nails siding up on a Habitat for Humanity house in the 4000 block of Geyland Heights Road on Saturday, June 11, 2011.

Community service isn't exactly a first-time thing for the Vols, though Lott has made a concerted effort to expand the projects heading into his second year leading the character-development program.

And he's also getting help from a roster that didn't have any problem rolling out of bed early on the weekend to participate, which could allow UT to take its service even further - particularly compared to when Lott's collegiate career ended in 2001.

"I think there's more structure now," Lott said. "We did a few things, going to the hospital and things like that, but actually going out and doing a job like this, I think it has more impact on our kids when they come out here and do it.

"I don't have to go searching for them anymore . . . (and) they know what's expected of them when they get out here."

At the rate Lott and the Vols are building, those expectations figure to only get bigger.

Austin Ward covers Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Vols_Beat and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/ward.

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Comments » 9

Mobbdeep4life writes:

I would much rather hear these type of stories than about a player getting in trouble. Giving back to the community is always a positive. These athletes will get to experience how their actions benefit others. It's a humbling experience and an eye opener. I realized that after working in the prison ministry. Talk about putting things in perspective.

mtowntim writes:

Like it ... like it a lot.

slb#1351874 writes:

Outstanding Son.
Character and Integrity are the real measuring aspects of a mans contributions to life.

Hammer the timbers of life today and hammer the gaters butts in Sept.

Go vols.

elbtenn#502977 writes:

It could be a special year.

orangecountyvols writes:

Vols,

This type news you really enjoy hearing about.
They put an exclamation point on the name......

Volunteer

jcherrie#219531 (Inactive) writes:

Outstanding story!

OwensboroVol writes:

Speaking of building character, the KNS must need some extra money. I notice that they are putting more and more stores on the GVX247. Enjoy the money you get because I will never pay for a news service where I can get the news from any number of other sources.

FearlessFreep writes:

This type of thing will be the model for departments moving forward. The days of recruiting players, having them finish their careers and then discard them are over. At least some coaches now realize that character off the field has tangible benefits on the field as well.

Kudos to CDD and to Andre Lott.

VOLS_SEC_RULES writes:

Thanks Austin. Great to hear about this. Please provide more of these stories.

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