More than a blitzing linebacker straight up the middle, somebody surprised Bishop Luers placekicker Peyton Howe a few days ago. They called him a great role model.
"I wasn't sure how to handle that," the senior said with a little bit of a blush.
Being a role model is sometimes about who you are as much as what you do, so Howe qualifies. He was attending a kicking camp in Chicago this summer when someone gave a presentation about the Kick-It campaign to raise money for pediatric cancer research which challenges kickers to raise funds with each successful kick. Howe immediately turned and nodded to his father Rob standing at the back, and dad got the message.
"I just really liked the idea for it, but I never thought I'd be able to put this kind of charity together," Howe said. "Then I saw my opportunity right there."
The way the program works, fans can either donate a lump sum or by individual dollars per accurate kick he makes this season at kick-it.org and searching kick-it-with-peyton. His original goal was to raise $2,500, but he's already out-kicked his coverage and has increased the target to $5,000. His website launched three weeks before the season which is only three weeks old. The Knights have played one home game.
Even better, Friday's game against Concordia will be a "gold out" contest to commemorate national childcare cancer awareness month. There will be plenty of opportunities to donate to Howe's campaign, and he's hoping other kickers will join in at their own schools.
The charity has also given the Knights' special teams something to work together and bond over. Howe never has to beg when asking or a little extra practice in part because this project means something more than just points on the scoreboard.
There have been a bunch of "growing up" moments included the past few months because of the campaign.
"It has helped him with a little more perspective on things his mom and I talk about all the time," Rob Howe said. "Some things are bigger than football, bigger than you. I think this has been a real growing experience for him. I think he just thought he was going to help some kids out and raise some money, but then he started looking into it and found how how many local families are fighting this. He found out how little money is given to pediatric cancer research."
Howe and team leaders Rees Zay, Ty Hambright and Mitch Gigli visited the Lutheran Children's Hospital on Aug. 14. They were a little nervous, apprehensive going in, but when it was time to leave...
"Now we're looking forward to going back and helping out some more people," said Zay who is Howe's holder. "We got to see the impact things like this can have, and yeah, let's go again."
The boys played XBox football in one room and just visited with patients and their families. One particular little girl stole all their hearts.
"They are sitting in the bed, and they are just tired," Howe said. "One thing you realize is you are lucky you don't have to go to the hospital every day. You just try and talk to them and make them happy for a little bit, anything to distract them for a little while. It's a good feeling."
Howe is heading back Oct. 6 with his school's Sodalitis community service group. The hospital is hoping to make visits such as this a regular happening with the school.
"We're trying to create a local connection with them so they can see how what they are dong impacts locally," said Lutheran Hospital Family Support Services Manager Tammy Else. "It helps the patients understand that there are people out there who are with them in this fight."
Howe and the Knights have invited a few of the families to attend Friday's game for some VIP treatment.
"We were talking early on in the summer about community service, doing work for others and not taking for granted what we've been given as students here at Bishop Luers," coach Kyle Lindsay said. "The fact that he took on this role is awesome and really ties into what we are about as as a school."
There's been plenty of perspective moments for Howe, who has eight nieces and nephews with another arriving soon. He's the last of seven kids for Rob and Becky who helps man the donation tables on Friday nights while dad keeps stats in the press box.
"I keep thinking about what my brothers and sisters would be going through if one of their kids had this, and what kind of opportunity we had to maybe help out by raising money for research," Peyton said. "We just have to do this."
His mother has lost two sisters to cancer, and his father two uncles with a third battling the disease. The family was also closely related to Jordan Wayne Allen, a Bishop Dwenger football and baseball player who passed away Nov. 12, 2005 at age 15 due to an abnormal heart rhythm brought on by an enlarged heart.
"He and Jordan are so much a like in so many ways, including looks and the way they'd give to everyone," Jordan's father Tim Allen said. "We think what he's doing is wonderful, not just because of Jordan, but just for Peyton being Peyton. He's like one of my own when he's around. He's just that kid, and I love him to death. They are a lot alike in personality and soul."
Besides working part-time for Allen at The Big-Eyed Fish on Wells Street, Howe also helps out every June at Jordan Wayne Allen Foundation golf outing. Howe is the first family member to play varsity football since Jordan, and he invited his Aunt Tina and and Uncle Tim and Tina to a game last year.
"At first it was hard to go to that game, but then you see Peyton out there and you know he's wearing Jordan's shirt under his jersey," Allen said. "He saw what his mother went through when Jordan passed, and he knows what that is like for people."
It was the first game they attended since Jordan played.
"I know that I remind them of him and how much it hurt when they lost him," Howe said. "I knew they were there and gave them a hug. That was a big deal, and I wanted to make this campaign a positive impact for them, too."
That's such a role model thing to say.
For more on local sports, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at @blakesebring and on Facebook at Blake Sebring.