U.P. football all-star players pay it forward

The Upper Peninsula Football All-Star Game is much more than a clash on the gridiron.

Of course, some of the finest football stars from the class of 2018 from all over the U.P. will be competing at the Superior Dome at 1 p.m. Saturday. But the players are doing more than practicing for that game.

And we think it’s awesome what happens as these young men stay at Northern Michigan University as they get ready for the All-Star event.

The Upper Peninsula Football All-Star Game had been a fixture decades back, but ended in 1951. It was re-established in 2008 by Xcel Founder/President Todd Goldbeck. Goldbeck and his group don’t just focus on the playbook as they guide the players through the week.

They give back.

For instance, when the players arrived Monday, they brought with them donations for a local food program. More than 1,500 pounds of food was brought to Marquette and was donated to the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry.

As the game’s Facebook page (@UPAllStarFootball) states: “(The food drive) is a testament to how well supported these players are in their communities.”

Like at the NFL Combine, there were competitions in throwing the football, running dashes and a receiver challenge which gave individuals a chance to shine. There was a Media Day, during which players got to share their stories.

But the biggest highlight of the week of preparation is when the players head up by bus to Bay Cliff Health Camp in Big Bay to spend time with the campers there. For those unaware, Bay Cliff Health Camp is a year-round, nonprofit therapy and wellness center for children and adults with physical disabilities. Bay Cliff’s priority program is a seven-week, summer therapy camp session serving children with orthopedic, speech, hearing and vision disabilities.

The players got to spend the day Thursday with these summer campers and it was difficult to tell who was more excited about the visit as the athletes enjoyed their time at Bay Cliff as much as the campers enjoyed the visit.

We congratulate Todd Goldbeck and all those who devote so much time and energy into making the U.P. Football All-Star Game a great event, but more importantly, for showing its participants that helping others is as big a thrill as scoring a touchdown or sacking a quarterback.

We hope the Superior Dome is filled with spectators Saturday, cheering on these young men at the game. They deserve our support.