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Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger became the second prominent college quarterback this week to use his platform to raise money for those adversely impacted by the coronavirus.
Ehlinger announced on social media on Friday that he started a GoFundMe page to help organizations both locally in Austin and nationally that have been impacted by the pandemic.
"I want to help people through this in any way I can," Ehlinger said in a statement provided to Yahoo Sports. "It's an event where there are so many unknowns, and there are so many ways it's hurting people, and i feel like we need to help people suffering from it."
In a message posted on Twitter and Instagram, Ehlinger said that the money would be spread to organizations like the Boys & Girls Club of America, Austin Pets Alive!, the Central Texas Food Bank and others. He set his goal to raise $1 million dollars. He gave a shoutout to Trevor Lawrence and his girlfriend, Marissa Mowry, for “coming up with this incredible idea to help [their] community and others.”
“Go to the link in my bio,” he said. “Share it with your friends, donate. Let’s raise some money and help everyone out in this time of need.”
Ehlinger saw the fundraising attempt earlier in the week by Lawrence, which got shut down by Clemson's compliance office in precaution. That story quickly made national headlines. (A Clemson spokesman said on Friday that a revamped fundraising venture from Lawrence is expected soon.)
The news caught the attention of Ehlinger, who connected with Lawrence on the phone through a mutual friend and had him walk through the experience. He saw this as an opportunity for athletes across the country to help out their communities.
"I thought it was a really good idea, so I got on the phone with Trevor the next day and talked over his process and how he put everything together," Ehlinger said. "And then I formulated my own plan from there and it got cleared with the NCAA and compliance."
In the first few hours, the fundraiser brought in more than $10,000. Among the donations were some familiar names – Texas offensive line coach Herb Hand, offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich and former offensive coordinator Tim Beck.
“I think it’s awesome,” Texas coach Tom Herman said by phone on Friday afternoon. “I’m not surprised in the least. He has always used his celebrity to benefit others. This is just another example of it.”
Ehlinger is the rare combination of both a college star and a local star in the same city, as he played his high school ball at Westlake High School in Austin. He’ll be entering his third season as the full-time starter, giving him a rare type of local resonance in a major American market. Herman likes to jokingly refer to Ehlinger as Johnny Longhorn and said on Friday with a chuckle: “Here’s Sam doing Sam things.”
Herman said that Ehlinger came up with the idea on his own. Ehlinger called Herman about it on Thursday to help work the process through Texas’ compliance office. (Herman put out a plea on Twitter earlier in the week to help support charities during this time, including the Central Texas Food Bank and Boys & Girls Clubs.)
It delighted Herman to see that Ehlinger took Lawrence’s lead and is attempting to spread the benevolence from his platform in Austin.
“I think it’s phenomenal,” Herman said. “Us as coaches, we preach all the time that it’s our duty to give back to the fans, the people who want to watch us play. It’s cool to see them materialize in such a time of need.”
Ehlinger’s impact was greeted warmly in Austin. Paul Gaither, director of marketing and communications at the Central Texas Food Bank, said they serve 50,000 meals to people in the area when there’s not a pandemic. The demand has increased in recent weeks, and every dollar donated translates to four meals for people in need.
“Obviously, anything Longhorn oriented gets a lot of attention here in Central Texas,” Gaither said. “This will raise the profile of our need and hopefully raise funds for us.”
Gaither added of Ehlinger: “I think it shows a lot of character and awareness and caring for his community.”
To donate to Ehlinger’s GoFundMe, click here.
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