LEXINGTON — Calvin Taylor will never forget a recent trip to Ethiopia. Neither will his Kentucky football teammates Landon Young and Boogie Watson.
“I think we all have pieces of Ethiopia we brought back with us,” Taylor said Monday. “I have a bracelet I wear every day. Just something to remind me of where I was. I can see something even on TV now and it will give me a flashback to where I was.
“This (the trip) is something that will be with me forever. Some guys (that went to Ethiopia) before, they still remember (kids in Ethiopia). They will always have a little piece of me.”
The three players were part of a mission trip through a partnership with “Ordinary Hero,” based in Tennessee. Young, Watson and Taylor spent five days in Korah. Ordinary Hero is a group that helps improve the way of life for those who are less fortunate.
Like Taylor, Young enjoyed the experience of serving others.
“Just giving them an experience that they may never have again was great,” Young said. “Ordinary Hero is there to try and break the cycle but it’s hard for everyone to break that cycle. Some of those kids living in Korah (a village where residents rely on waste in the trash dump for food, clothing and more) will probably live there the rest of their lives, but they can at least look back and say these big guys came over and they got to go to a movie or ate with them. It was impactful for us just thinking we were maybe planting a seed for those kids to have a better life.”
Watson said his first trip out of the country was an eye-opening experience and he was amazed by the way the children receive their meals.
“They said when the airport drops off trash, it’s like a five-star meal for them,” Watson said. “Seeing kids and families live off that stuff was kind of crazy to me. Growing up I complained that I didn’t want McDonald’s because I wanted this or that. Seeing that (in Ethiopia) makes it very hard for me to ever complain about a meal or anything.
“They live completely different lives but everyone still has a smile on their face. They really do not have much to be happy about from our experiences, but they all smile. That makes me grateful to be in the situation I am. I think every day now how blessed I am to be in the situation I am.”
Since returning to Lexington, all three players have a new perspective on football and life in general.
For Young, the little things matter now, such as an air conditioner in the summer and even the perks of being a college athlete.
“We get to play (football) for free on scholarship,” Young said. “We are able to get a hot meal any time. Being able to eat as much as we want … it humbles you that we have it so good and these kids (in Ethiopia) were so selfless. They shared their only meal with others. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something I never would have been able to do if not for UK football.”
Watson added life appeared to be easier upon returning from the mission trip.
“Seeing that makes you work harder,” he said. “They (Ethiopian children) don’t have the opportunity to work out and go to school for free. The opportunity we are blessed with drives me even harder.”
“When I got back (to Lexington) and started working out, I had a new drive and respect to work out and do a little extra,” he said.