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July 13, 2008

Dawgs South of the Border II

When Roderick Battle accompanied head coach Mark Richt and a number of his teammates on a mission trip in May to Honduras, the Georgia defensive end thought he knew what to expect.

That is, until he finally got there and saw what was truly in store.

"I knew that it would be a life-changing experience, but it turned out to be a lot more than that," Battle said. "I knew that we would be able to see how these people lived, and what they were going through. What I didn't expect was how we would be dealing with these people. I didn't think we would deal with them on the level that we did."

According to the junior, he thought the trip would entail little more than patching a few roofs, or maybe mend a fence, or two.

It turned out to be much more than that.

"People would come out of their houses with big, plastic buckets for us to fill with water. These people did not have water in their houses, and they would invite us inside. It was really personal. I didn't think it would get that personal on this trip," Battle said. "We were able to have a kind of interaction that I never thought we would have. We got to see them go through their every-day routine and minister to them."

Richt, who went to Honduras with his family last June, said he got the notion that such an experience would benefit his players in way two-a-days on a hot practice field in August would never do.

"When I went there last year I thought it would be an awesome for our guys to experience that," Richt said.

Sponsored by World Baptist Missions, Richt and his players worked at Hospital Bautista in Guaimaca, Honduras, helping care for the residents who lived in and around the area.

Players who made the trip included Battle, cornerback Chad Gloer, fullback Justin Fields, offensive lineman Chris Davis, punter Brian Mimbs, running back Richard Samuel, among others.

"I didn't know for sure what to expect until we finally got down there, but it changed my perspective on a lot of things," Gloer said. "Especially when you come back here; it makes you look at things differently.

It will make you appreciate things that normally you wouldn't think about."

Something as simple as a bucket of water or a little piece of candy would make a friend for life.

"One day we took water into their village and they were like we were bringing them Christmas presents," Gloer said. "You'd have kids coming from everywhere. You'd have them popping out of the bushes, no lie, just to get some water. I remember one day we brought them candy and one little sucker, they give you a big hug then run off and get their friends. All of a sudden, four, five, six, seven more kids would pop out."

Battle said that each day began at 6:30 a.m. for the players, followed by a 15-minute devotional before heading off to work on various projects in and around the community.

From fixing fences, carrying water, to providing spiritual aid and comfort, there were no limits on the type of assistance Richt and his players attempted to provide.

"One thing was really fun was that local Hondurans would ride by on their bikes and we would talk with them the best we could, but no matter what they had a smile on their face," Davis said. "It makes you appreciate the things you have at home better because they are basically living on dirt floors."

It was certainly no day at the beach or tropical excursion for the Bulldogs, either.

With no electricity or running water, players were forced to "rough it" in every sense. The nights weren't that quiet, either.

"I had to keep my I-pod plugged in the whole. You had roosters crowing at 3 a.m.," Gloer said. "But we were there to do pretty much whatever they wanted. We were just there to serve them."

Of course, there was some down time for fun and games.

Like all South American countries, soccer is huge and the Bulldogs got a real taste of that first-hand.

"We played soccer all the time," Gloer said. "Richard Samuel has got some game, but not me. I was on the sidelines coaching, trying to stay cool."

Gloer laughed at the way they were introduced to the local villagers.

"They (translators) told them that we were the best football team in America," Gloer said. "Of course, in South America, football is soccer and they all got pretty excited. I think when we got out there they soon realized that wasn't the case.

"Next time, I think we'll bring some footballs with us so they'll at least have a clue. I was hard to explain that our ball is not like their ball and that we get to use our hands."



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