You might not have ever heard of the Jordan High Beetdiggers, but they mean the world to assistant custodian Brad Keene. Ever since he began working at the Utah school in 2003, the former college football player has attended every game, both home and away, and has been one of the team's most ardent supporters. So he didn't consider it a sacrifice in the least when he sold his car and tapped his savings to buy the team desperately needed football helmets. "I wanted to give something back," he said humbly.
It seems that the team has provided an outlet for Keene -- a release. His wife suffers from MS and is in an assisted-living facility. Keene lives with and cares for his elderly mother, who is legally blind. He takes Fridays off during the season so that he can travel with the team to away games. "Football is my passion. It's something I can turn to," he told AOL Jobs. "I love those kids with all my heart."
So when he saw that they needed helmets, he didn't think twice about selling his 2004 Chevy Cavalier to raise the money. And when that didn't quite cover the $6,000 cost of 20 Riddell Revolution helmets in school colors and with team decals, Keene dug into his savings.
Much Needed and Well Worth It
He says that the old helmets were plain maroon, but now they have the Jordan J, the players' numbers, and a tribal stripe. "The team was so excited to see them," Keene recalls with emotion. "They were thrilled."
There wasn't room for a decal picturing their mascot, like the statue of "Beetdigger Dan," who stands out in front of the school, a digging knife in one hand, a beet in the other. "When the school was built in 1907," Keene explains, "there was nothing but beet fields around here. Probably some in this very spot."
Keene has always related to the football team. He says that he played little league football himself when he was young, then played a year at Southern Utah College, which is now a university in Cedar City. "I had some family issues and I had to leave, but I sure wish I would have gone back. That's one of my biggest regrets."
Gaining Gridiron Glory
He's now sharing football dreams with a new generation, and they're helping a few of his dreams come true, as well. He traveled with them last year to Canton, Ohio, for a Varsity Challenge, which the Beetdiggers won. "That's the farthest I've ever been from Salt Lake City," he says. "I sure am grateful I got to go along."
Keene reasons that it's only right for him to give something in return for all the experiences, excitement, camaraderie and love he feels that the team has shown him.
"I just got this feeling I should do something for the team," he said. "I walked into the principal's office, and it was interesting, because the football coach just happened to be there at the time. I asked them if it would be OK if I got the kids new helmets. The principal said, 'That's going to be expensive.' And when I told him I had the money, he said it would be OK, and that he would see that I could get a tax write-off for it."
The tax write-off, of course, is of little consequence to Keene. "I just felt so good about doing it," he said. "The kids mean all the world to me."
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