OTTUMWA — A number of Ottumwa football players dragged themselves out of bed Saturday morning to take part in the Ottumwa Rotary Club's semi-annual highway cleanup.
As they cruised by in their vehicles, drivers could see a mix of rotary members and football players scattered along U.S. Highway 63 from the bridge north of town all the way past the Cedar Creek Golf Course starting at 7 a.m. The boys' involvement in the project is part of a larger effort to establish a good rapport between the community and the football program. Developing a close-knit relationship with the community is one of the initiatives Ottumwa football coach Zach Pfantz has actively pushed since he took over the reins of the football program.
"I think that being proud of where you come from is important and just having pride in community," Pfantz said. "We want to show that we care and help out anyway that we can."
The coach noted the close relationship between the high school and the town.
"I think that's the great thing about high school athletics, we are in this together," Pfantz said. "Our high school and our town are so interconnected."
The football players themselves were keenly aware of their coach's predilection for public service projects and other manifestations of community pride.
"That's kind of his thing," Bulldog Jalen Strunk said about Pfantz, "He just likes us to get involved and help out with the community. It gives us a better look for the community and makes us look better to the little kids who look up to us. It just makes us better role models to them."
Rotary club members were appreciative of the football team's interest in the project.
"I think it's great," Rotarian Lee Johns said. "I think it helps anytime you get the young kids out and get them involved in the community and see that there's a lot more out there that needs to be done. I think it's really good for them."