Dozens of Coastal Carolina University football players, coaches and staff stepped up to the line Thursday.
But it wasn’t the sideline or a hash mark. It was a taped pink line going down the middle of the chapel at the Evans Correctional Institution in Bennettsville, South Carolina.
Head coach Joe Moglia was glassy-eyed.
Less than three feet away, inmates stood up to a white lined taped parallel to the pink line while a woman with a microphone read a list of statements, and asked everyone in the room to step up to the lines if the statement applied to them.
“At least one of my parents abused drugs or alcohol.”
Some players and staff stepped away from their line. On the other side, some inmates stepped up.
“Violence took place against me growing up.”
“I’ve lost someone I loved to suicide.”
The woman was Catherine Hoke, founder of Defy Ventures, a nonprofit organization that seeks to harness the entrepreneurial spirit of many criminals and use it help them in legitimate businesses after prison life.
When you actually understand and appreciate what’s really going on and the plights sometimes that other have, hopefully you realize deep down how fortunate you are and that’s the reason why we did this.
Joe Moglia, Coastal Carolina University football head coach
The non-profit isn’t established in South Carolina, but was at the prison with the team as part of Moglia’s efforts to prepare students for life after football by taking responsibility for their decisions.
“It was an eye-opening experience,” said 22-year-old redshirt junior cornerback Anthony Chesley. “We got the opportunity to see another world and understand and also break social norms. (The inmates) were great people. We all make mistakes but they happened to get caught and we didn’t. At the end of the day, although we come from different backgrounds, we’re the same people.”
On the back of Chesley’s shirt was the acronym BAM, which Moglia said stands for the phrase ‘Be A Man.’
It was an eye-opening experience. We got the opportunity to see another world and understand and also break social norms.
Anthony Chesley, Coastal Carolina University football cornerback
“‘Be A Man’ is not some tough-guy, macho thing,” said Moglia. “‘Be A Man’ is truly somebody who takes responsibility for themselves, treats others with dignity and respect and lives with the consequences of their actions.”
Moglia said many players come from backgrounds where they were treated like “superstars” in high school, where people would take care of their problems for them.
“I want my guys to appreciate what empathy really is, what respect for another person really is,” said Moglia. “What it really means to be given a second chance, what it really means to take responsibility for yourself. When you actually understand and appreciate what’s really going on and the plights sometimes that others have, hopefully you realize deep down how fortunate you are and that’s the reason why we did this.”
It was a great experience and definitely something I want to tell my kids sometime.
Rod Holder, Coastal Carolina University defensive analyst
Defensive analyst Rod Holder said the trip was an “awesome and humbling” experience.
“You realize that even though we’re on two different sides of the world, some people are incarcerated and we’re blessed and fortunate to live our lives so far,” said Holder. “So when those guys stepped up to the line, it made your realize that even though we’re on different aspects of life, that we truly have a lot of similarities. It’s definitely a blessing to see people’s lives change and grow as we have that experience today. It was a great experience and definitely something I want to tell my kids sometime.”
Christian Boschult, 843-626-0218, @TSN_Christian