TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Now in his third year as the leader of Florida State’s chapter of Uplifting Athletes, Seminoles center Alec Eberle is looking to kick things up a few notches.
So much so that Eberle, along with redshirt freshman lineman Josh Ball, traveled to the Uplifting Athletes national conference in Philadelphia earlier this year to learn strategies and hear inspirational stories from schools with a lengthier history in the organization.
He heard of how the Penn State football program has raised more than $1.2 million toward research for cancer and rare diseases since 2003. And how Nebraska has held a 5k road race for each of the last five years to benefit pediatric brain cancer research.
FSU’s chapter, founded in 2014, is younger than the ones from those and several other schools. But that hasn’t stopped Eberle from dreaming big.
“We were like ‘There’s so much more we can do,'” Eberle said. “… Because at Florida State, we have such a huge platform. If we can use our platform and our fanbase to get this even bigger, I think it can be huge.
“There’s no other school like our school. And everyone knows that.”
Armed with new information and a new perspective, Eberle and Ball headed back to Tallahassee, where they began mapping out this year’s Lift For Life event. Lift For Life, now in its fourth year at FSU, is open to the public and will take place inside the Albert J. Dunlap Indoor Practice Facility on Tuesday at 5 p.m.
The signature event for the FSU chapter of Uplifting Athletes, Lift For Life pits the Seminoles against each other in various feats of strength as they draw financial pledges to support the Kidz1stFund.
Coach Jimbo Fisher and his family founded the Kidz1stFund in 2011 with a goal of fighting Fanconia anemia, a rare blood disease that affects Fisher’s youngest son, Ethan, as well as thousands of other people.
The Seminoles raised more than $5,000 at last year’s Lift For Life event, and Eberle would like to blow past that amount this year. Pledges can be made online at http://give.upliftingathletes.org/fsulift2017, or at the door.
“Coach Fisher’s family does so much for us as a team,” Eberle said. “Any opportunity we get to give back to them, it’s pretty awesome.”
Life For Life always promises an entertaining show. Previous years’ highlights have included oversized tire flipping, heavy-duty van pulling and, the main event, an offense-versus-defense game of tug-of-war.
They may be working together for a common goal, but that doesn’t stop the Seminoles from trying to get the best of each other.
“Everyone looks forward to it – the whole team, the coaches, even the strength coaches love it,” Eberle said. “Because it just gives us a chance to go out there and compete. Y’all know our team, everyone wants to constantly go out there and compete.”
And given the strides that the Seminoles have made in the weight room over the summer – Eberle said he’s stronger than ever and has noticed similar gains across the entire roster – he believes this year’s event will bring even more fireworks than years’ past.
“It’s really impressive,” he said. “So I think this year is going to be even more fun, because everyone knows, ‘I’m a lot stronger than that guy,’ or, ‘He thinks he’s stronger than me,’ and they want to beat him.
“So I think the competition this year is going to be awesome.”
Asked for the most anticipated event of the day, Eberle smiled and said, “Oh, you know the event everybody looks forward to.”
That would be the tug-of-war, which promises unassailable bragging rights to either the offense or defense for a full year.
“Everybody just goes at it and it’s so fun,” he said. “Coach Fisher gets into it, guys start talking big trash. It’s definitely the best event of this entire time.”
Although they’ll be competitors on the field, Eberle said the team is collectively more united than ever when it comes to supporting Uplifting Athletes’ cause.
The FSU chapter has come a long way since its founding three years ago, when Kevin Haplea, a tight end who transferred to Florida State from Penn State, sought to bring Uplifting Athletes to his new school.
Haplea, Eberle and former FSU kicker Roberto Aguayo have all served in leadership capacities since then, but Eberle said that dynamic is changing as more and more players get behind their efforts.
Since Uplifting Athletes events are entirely organized and produced by student-athletes, Eberle has done almost all off the legwork to get things up and running over the last few years.
But now, he said, there’s a virtual “board” of players who he can count on to help make the event happen and spread the word about it through their social media accounts.
Which, of course, brings a smile to the face of their head coach.
“He tells me every time that it means the world to him and his family that we plan this out and do this every year and make sure it happens,” Eberle said. “I know he appreciates it. Any time we can help them and give back to them, that’s what we want to do.”