LANCASTER — Red Raider football players spent Saturday delivering 35 tons of supplies and putting their muscles to work providing aid to a tornado-ravished Metroplex suburb.
The Texas Tech football team on Friday collected 1½ tractor-trailer loads of such essentials as bottled water, toothpaste, dog food, camping gear and even tortilla chips, which they distributed Saturday afternoon in Lancaster.
Like many of the nearly 30 players and coaches who made the 300-mile journey, Tech quarterback Seth Doege said he wasn’t surprised by Lubbockites’ generosity and willingness to aid tornado victims across the state.
“That’s something I expected because it's such a classy place and they work to help in any way they can,” he said.
It was the homes with roofs ripped off, walls leveled to the ground and nearly unrecognizable house debris scattered across block after block that left him stunned.
“Once I saw the place and saw how much destruction there was, I really felt for the people,” he said. “The houses were completely destroyed.”
Doege and other Red Raiders joined in the efforts of thousands of volunteers from across the state and country Saturday in starting the first steps of rebuilding neighborhoods.
“I think there’s going to be a long and sustained need for recovery after the storms,” Tech spokesman Blayne Beal said.
More than 300 houses were damaged and up to 2,000 buildings in the suburb were affected by the storm that produced a number of tornados in the Metroplex.
About 25 football players embarked on their relief mission Saturday morning, leaving Lubbock just after 6 a.m. Other players and coaches, including head coach Tommy Tuberville, met the team in the Metroplex.
Those who left in the caravan stopped through Slaton, picking up several boxes of donuts donated by the Slaton Bakery.
In the darkness before sunrise, Slaton Bakery owner Robin Wilson quickly stepped into the bus to praise the sleepy team.
“I just wanted to thank you for all you’re doing for the folks in Lancaster,” she said.
Then it was nap time as the bus headed southeast into the sunrise.
By early afternoon, Lancaster Mayor Marcus Knight met the Red Raiders in a warehouse-turned makeshift supply depot as the team spent more than an hour unloading 70,000 pounds of supplies.
“I just can’t say enough to you all for caring enough about our community to make the trek across the state,” he said. “I want you to know this really does count. This really will make a difference.”
Knight said his city was showing signs of improvement just five days after the tornado, explaining utilities were back on for the majority of the city.
Team members said they felt honored to help.
“I think it’s good helping out a hometown like this,” said inside receiver Jakeem Grant, who grew up in Dallas.
Grant said he appreciated the chance to help others in a time of crisis.
“I’ve always said when I get older I want to volunteer for the community, so I’m getting an early start by doing this,” the redshirt freshman said.
Doege praised Sonny Cumbie, the team’s inside receivers coach, for approaching players to ask if they wanted to help.
Rather than praise, Cumbie was more focused on his work in a line of Red Raiders unloading bottled water and paper towels.
“I’m getting better, especially with the water,” Cumbie said. “Repetition helps.”
The team returned to Lubbock on Saturday night.
Beal said he was thankful for the steady drove of Lubbockites who came to the Athletic Training Facility on Friday to drop off more than 1,000 bottles of water, hundreds of boxes of food, several wardrobes full of clothing, emergency camping supplies and a stockpile of toiletries to support their fellow Texans.
Stephen Pape, a government liaison for the American Red Cross in Lancaster, thanked Lubbockites and the Tech team for their support.
“Y’all made me proud,” said Pape, a Tech alum. “I got to brag on Texas Tech.”
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