FLOWERY BRANCH — Flowery Branch football coach Lee Shaw says it often: Being a part of the Falcons football program is about more than the 48 minutes on Friday nights.
Friday at Royal Lakes Golf and Country Club, a handful of those in the program found out first hand the exact meaning of their coach’s words.
The Flowery Branch Open Golf Tournament, an annual fundraiser put on by the Flowery Branch Touchdown Club, was transformed this time around into the Hines Ward Celebrity Golf Benefit.
"These guys will remember this," Shaw said. "Just to be associated with this kind of clientele makes me think back to seven years ago and how far this program’s come.
"I feel blessed to get to be associated with this thing."
And donning their white jerseys, the 22 rising Falcons’ seniors had the responsibility of driving the carts carrying some of the NFL’s elite around the course.
"We’ve tried to get Cory (Sanderson) with (current San Francisco 49er) Takeo Spikes," said Flowery Branch Touchdown Club Vice President Richard Sanderson, whose son Cory is a rising senior linebacker for Flowery Branch.
"Cory is a huge Auburn fan."
A donation of $1,500 reserved a spot in a foursome with three NFL players, including the likes of former NFL star Jerome Bettis or the events namesake, Hines Ward.
The club also held a silent auction in which those who donated could bid on a specific player to compete with.
A portion of the proceeds of Friday’s event will go to the touchdown club, the rest to the Hines Ward Helping Hands Foundation.
"I grew up in Georgia and it’s always good to come back and help out," Ward said. "These are good people and a lot of Georgia fans, which I like.
"I still wear my Georgia paraphenalia," he added. "Last year was a bit of a disappointment, but I’m always going to be a Georgia Bulldog."
Ward’s foundation is currently working to bring sustainable, values-based community education programs, in the form of the iTpod Education Program, to communities in the metro Atlanta area.
The iTpod is a mobile classroom which offers online learning using 21st century technology.
The program has, according to Ward, been a success in Flowery Branch and is looking to come to Gainesville.
"We will be working alongside the Housing Authority of Gainesville, local churches and the police department," said Neil Parkinson, a representative of the program. "We are looking to deliver after school education and combine it with soccer.
"The program will inform children about gang culture and the people and places they can turn to if they need help. And we’ll be setting up community classrooms where children come straight to after getting off the school bus, to assist them with their homework and just engage them."
These pods bare Ward’s likeness and house upwards of 10 laptops with workstations.
"For me to be the face of this program is a big honor for me," Ward said.