By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
KANSAS CITY, Mo. —
Every newspaper, radio and television interview that Missouri Southern football coach Bart Tatum fielded during Monday’s MIAA football media day included at least one question about the May 22 tornado that struck Joplin.
“It’s been good to talk to them about it because there are a lot of great things that came from that tragedy,” he said. “I had five coaches who were in the direct path of the storm, and 48 hours afterward, they were out helping other people. They’ve lost everything.
“I have players who are volunteering and doing community service. Those are awesome things.”
Obviously this summer has been different from any other for the Lions who remained in Joplin.
“There was a time there, not even knowing if all your teammates were safe,” defensive tackle Kenny Smith said. “We had some guys lose some of their homes. We were lucky that everybody made it through and everybody was all right.
“The only thing that has really been kind of normal is our schedule. The summer workouts have stayed the same, but having a hospital basically at our school in the gym and having people coming in and out all the time has been a lot different than the normal. They’ve recovered well, and it’s starting to get back to normal. It’s never going to be the way it was but they’ve recovered well.”
Smith and wide receiver Ne’Ronte Threatt believe the Lions will be playing for thousands of people this season.
“We feel we owe the town of Joplin something,” Threatt said. “Any town that’s been through what Joplin is going through right now is pretty dramatic. When you go out on community service, you realize how much pain there is.”
“We’re just ready to get the season going and try to help out the community,” Smith said. “Every Saturday they can come out and get a break from a crazy schedule ... three hours on Saturday they can just come out and have some fun and cheer us on. We’re not just playing for us. We’re trying to put the community on our backs, try to help them pull through by playing good football.”