In light of recent shootings in the United States, Southeast Missouri head football coach Tom Matukewicz felt compelled to do something.
Matukewicz immediately turned to his player-driven leadership council which serves as a governing body for his team. Jackson native and quarterback Dante Vandeven, one of eight representatives on the leadership council, was quick to suggest a charity flag football event that would involve Southeast's football team and local law enforcement personnel. Not a game that would pit Cops against Hawks, but an event that would bring a whole community together.
On July 21, Southeast players and law enforcement individuals were teammates in a Cops and Hawks Bowl at Houck Stadium. The event, sponsored by First State Community Bank, raised money for BackStoppers, a non-profit organization that provides needed financial assistance and support to the spouses and dependent children of fallen and injured service members in the line of duty.
"It's hard to believe this all came to fruition about 10 days ago," said Matukewicz. "It was an awesome event. The anticipation was high for players and law enforcement to interact on the same teams. We are all on a team and we're trying to win, so getting on the same team is the point here."
Four teams with Redhawks and law enforcement officials played under flag football rules with a 25 minute running clock in front of a crowd of 646. The white team won the event with victories over the gold and red squads. Cape Girardeau Chief of Police Wes Blair, Cape Girardeau County Sheriff John Jordan, Jackson Chief of Police James Humphreys and Southeast Missouri State Department of Public Safety Officer Kenny Mayberry served as honorary coaches.
Redhawks senior Preseason All-Ohio Valley Conference wideout Tremane McCullough honors his two deceased brothers through football. McCullough's older brother, Tavaris, was shot and killed by a police officer in West Palm Beach, Fla., in 2007. For years after that, McCullough said he hated all cops and wouldn't even look at them.
"Tonight was an opportunity for everybody to come together and we had a lot of fun," said McCullough. "It's important to support each other and show people there can be unity. We need to come together as one big family in this world."
Afterwards, the Redhawks and law enforcement participants enjoyed a meal together, where Blair and Southeast linebacker Terrance Hill were guest speakers.
Southeast reported for its preseason camp on Aug. 3 and kicks off the 2016 season at Memphis on Sept. 3.
Above: Story and video courtesy Southeast Missouri State University Communications and Marketing