KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Next week, the Tennessee Volunteers will hit the field to put in hard work with the payoff of successful fall Saturdays in sight. But the hard work that players put in away from the field since the conclusion of spring practice paid off in a big way for a Knoxville family on Thursday. Since the spring, the Volunteers have donated their time and strength to building a Habitat for Humanity home in East Knoxville. Thursday was dedication day for the new home of Donna, a single mother and her children Jonisha, Jonathan and Josh.
The months of hard work from the student-athletes culminated with the moment quarterback Joshua Dobbs handed Donna the keys to her family's new home.
"Every opportunity we get to get out and help and make a positive impact in the community, it's always good," senior Curt Maggitt said after the presentation. "It was definitely hard work, but when you get moments like this, it's surreal and makes it all worth it."
This was the fifth year Tennessee has partnered with Habitat to build a home for a Knoxville family. As a fifth-year player, Maggitt has been a part of building all five. It is an experience he was glad to share with his teammates, particularly the younger players this summer.
"I wanted to show guys that it's not about what you do on the field as much as it is what you do off of the field," he said. "It's not just a player effort, it's a team, a family effort.
Indeed, this year, the entire Vol football family got involved. The wives of the Tennessee coaching staff came out to paint the interior of the home in recent weeks. The experience allowed Barb Jones and her fellow coaches' wives to work alongside Donna and the family.
"It's a great reward to see from phase one to seeing the look on her face, how genuinely happy she is to be moving in," Jones said. "It's just very rewarding for all of us."
Jones declined to release a depth chart on the best painters of the group, though she did single out Crystal Gillespie and Kelly Jancek for their performances, aided by their height.
For sophomore Aaron Medley, having the entire football family work together to help another family move into their own home made the experience even more rewarding.
"It was great to see a house come together from the beginning stages to being able to hand over the keys to the family," Medley said. "I had never been able to be a part of something like that. It was an amazing experience."
It was quite an experience for the family as well, who now has a place where their weekly dinners and game nights will continue on forever.
"It feels wonderful to be in a house," Jonisha said, speaking on behalf of her family. "It's wonderful to bring our family into a place that you can call your own. It is tremendous to have them come out here and give of their time out of their busy schedules to come out and help a family like ours is wonderful."