Above the entrance of the Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital in Des Moines hangs a stark reminder: “The price of freedom is visible here.”
The quote has served as inspiration to Drake football player Zach Bosch during visits to the hospital to meet with veterans.
“I think it has a huge impact on people, to see what those guys have sacrificed for our country,” Bosch says. “I know it has on my life.”
Two years ago, Bosch, a senior, started an outreach program with the VA Hospital. During the winter and spring, he and approximately 10 other members of the Drake football team visit and interact with patients.
“My grandfather and uncle served in the military, and I have two cousins in the U.S. Air Force right now. I have a great respect for the military and wanted to do something for them,” he says. “We go to different rooms and visit with the veterans who are there. It’s something to brighten their day and gives them someone to talk to.”
Because of his efforts, Bosch was recently recognized as a member of the Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works team. The team honors 22 players nationally for their community service efforts.
Bosch’s service is not limited to the VA Hospital. As a member of the football team, he has had many opportunities to volunteer. He has met with sick children at Blank Children’s Hospital, an effort led by his teammates Vince Israel and Avery Fuhs, and has read books to children at Des Moines elementary schools—something every member of the football team does during the season.
“We want to get out in the community because members of the community come to our games and support us,” Bosch says. “We believe we need to get out and support them as well.”
Community service is an important facet of the football team’s philosophy; however, Coach Creighton says the credit belongs to the players, who give their time and energy to plan and attend the programs.
“We don’t have to talk them into volunteering,” Creighton says. “Our guys understand the power of their influence. When you put on a college jersey and walk into a school or hospital, there is a certain amount of respect you receive. Our guys understand it is a short and small window.”
According to Creighton, who led the football team to a Pioneer Football League co-championship last year, winning games is important, but it is not the only thing he hopes his players will take away from their Drake experience. In addition to community service, the team emphasizes relationships and leadership with the hope that players graduate ready to “make an impact in their families, communities, and work places.”
“We want to make playing football at Drake the most incredible experience of their lives, and for that to be possible, there has to be more to it than football,” he says.
Academics are important, too, and the team recognizes accomplishments with an academic top 10 board, based on GPA. Some semesters, Creighton says, all 10 players have a 4.0.
Last season, pharmacy student Michael Lahart, a former member of the football team, was recognized for his academic performance with Academic All-American honors. Now in his final year of pharmacy school, he says numerous lessons from football have translated into career success. Volunteer work completed on the football team’s 2011 trip to Tanzania lead to a desire to complete a pharmacy rotation in Belize and years of early morning summer workouts helped him develop the dedication needed to complete the six-year program.
“The most valuable lesson I am going to take away from playing football is the ability to work hard every day toward a goal and not expect an immediate reward,” he says. “There is also an amount of due diligence needed in football, to make sure you are taking care of the little things, and all of that is very important as a pharmacist.”
Lahart says an environment that is supportive of student-athletes also contributed to his success.
“My professors made it possible for me to do what I’ve done,” he says. “They made it possible for me to miss class when I needed to and were willing to go over things I missed in class. They were also great at recognizing outside accomplishments. If I did well in a game, I would have at least a couple emails from professors congratulating me. It was great to know they cared about me beyond just being a student in their classroom.”
– Elizabeth Ford Kozor, AS’07, JO’07