The Missouri Southern football team donated footballs to each middle school class at three Joplin schools on Wednesday as it partook in the Football Bowl Association’s Give A Football social media challenge.

The purpose of the nationwide social media challenge was for participating college football programs to donate footballs to youth players or teams on Nov. 6 — the 150th anniversary of college football — to encourage youth participation in the sport.

“It’s pretty cool to think you’re a part of something that started 150 years ago and how the game has evolved, and just how it’s effected people,” Southern coach Jeff Sims said Wednesday during his team’s weekly press conference at Fred G. Hughes Stadium. “I have three college degrees and my wife has three college degrees. We’re both first-generation college students, and I don’t know that we would have any of those degrees if not for my ability to catch a football. That opened up the door for me to college and then it opened up the door for my wife to go to college.”

Also as part of the challenge, Southern invited youth football players to Fred G. Hughes Stadium to receive footballs and tickets to the Lions’ upcoming game on Saturday against Emporia State. The MSSU football team’s twitter account (@MOSOFOOTBALL) posted a video of the event with the hashtag #GiveAFootball.

“This is a pretty special thing,” Sims said. “I think football is really unique in what it does for young men. … It’s pretty fun to be a part of a sport that changed your own life. And then for 25 years, I’ve been coaching and have been able to see guys use football as an opportunity for themselves to succeed. So hopefully getting a football to the young people at the schools got them fired up.”

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