For much of the 2018 Georgia Southern football season, postgame attention turned to the destruction of folding metal chairs - stemming from locker room footage of a 2017 win over UL Lafayette that went viral.
Fans were thrilled to see 10 different folding chairs - each adorned with the logo of a defeated opponent - meet their demise last fall, but an even better story of growth and building is now stemming from that destruction.
The Eagles kept each of those chairs hung in the locker room as the wins mounted as a source of pride and inspiration, but needed to find a new home for them as the new season begins. The program could have easily funded a few upgrades for itself by selling the chairs for itself, but instead looked to a more altruistic cause.
GS Football and the Eagle Football Alumni Association put the chairs up for auction, but allowed all proceeds to go to a campus organization doing mission work.
Matt Wise - who played football for Georgia Southern from 2004-07 - now serves as the school’s director of Athletes in Action, the sports ministry of CRU (Campus Crusade for Christ). From March 16-22, Wise will be leading a group from Georgia Southern on a mission trip to Costa Rica that will be greatly helped by the $10,000 raised from the auction of last year’s victory chairs.
Wise will lead his fifth mission trip with Georgia Southern student athletes and coaches this spring in conjunction with Filter of Hope, which is a device that is designed for families to be able to provide themselves with clean and safe drinking water.
“There was a survey done in impoverished locations to identify their greatest needs,” Wise said. “There were some expected responses such as more jobs and education, but the second biggest need was simply clean water. Filter of Life has designed a filter that costs just $35 and is durable and usable even for people in the most remote areas.”
The annual mission trips spent providing those in need with the filters has provided many with life-changing access to clean water. It has also made an impact on those who are providing the help.
“It’s amazing to see the humility and servant leadership that our guys learn on these trips,” Wise said. “For those who participate, it can be faith-based or not. The main reason everyone participates is simply that they want to help others.”
One of the most recognizable members of this year’s trip is also the reason for the extra $10,000 raised through the chair auction. Georgia Southern head coach Chad Lunsford is taking his family to Costa Rica to help on the mission and was glad to lend the chairs - many of which his elbow has personally dented - to the cause.
“We’re so glad that Coach Lunsford is such a big supporter of this,” Wise said. “He brings a lot of awareness to our cause. In today’s sports world, people are looking for authenticity. He’s a guy who lives what he speaks and he and his family will make this year’s mission another great one.”