Shrine Bowlers putting in their work
By AUSTIN COLBERT
SALINA -- Bed check is at 11:30 p.m. each night. The only requirement is the players be in their room when the coaches knock, otherwise a search party will be organized.
Norton's Jacob Brooks hasn't done a very good job with this, but at least he has a good reason for the constant rule breaking.
"There are two theater rooms and I like to go down there and watch a movie and relax. Put some ice on my sore muscles and usually I fall asleep," Brooks said. "It's not that big of a deal. They don't punish you and make you run."
Maybe Brooks isn't asked to run more, but he certainly has had to do plenty of it while he and more than 30 other West squad players prepare for Saturday's Kansas Shrine Bowl in Topeka. The game will be played at Yager Stadium on the Washburn University campus with a 7 p.m. kickoff. Each team -- East and West -- are spending the week at separate training camps in Emporia and Salina, respectively.
"When you step on the field, that's your job -- you are competing," said Brooks, who will be a wide receiver at Hutchinson Community College in the fall. "When you get back and you are just chilling, you take advantage of that time. You rest your body before you have to go back out there and push your body to the limit."
Days are long for the players. Along with the honor of playing in the state's most celebrated high school all-star game is the opportunity to wake up at 7 a.m. each day for breakfast and practice. A brief respite in the afternoon concludes at the start of the evening practice, which lasts beyond sundown.
Then it's rinse and repeat.
"It's tough," said Plainville's Bradey Chard, another Hutchinson Community College commit. "It's pretty laid back, but once we get on the field it's go time. When we go out to the football field it's work."
But the players would all agree that the work is worth it and the honor of playing in the Shrine Bowl -- which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year -- is not to be taken lightly.
"I was very fortunate to be picked to play in that game and to see what I saw. It opened my eyes," said Rod Chard, Bradey's father and a 1985 Kansas Shrine Bowl participant.
"It did leave a lasting memory and I hope my son sees that, and that we are lucky that we live the life we do."
The Shrine Bowl isn't about a game. Its purpose is to raise money for the Shriners Hospitals for Children, a not-for-profit organization that has 22 hospitals across the country that care for children suffering from neuromusculoskeletal conditions, burn injuries or other special healthcare needs, according to its website.
For many years, part of the experience for the players was a trip to St. Louis -- the nearest hospital -- to visit the children. But since 2011 the Shriners have brought the children to the players, which serves as a humbling experience for the players and an uplifting one for the kids.
For this year's team, that visit is today in Topeka.
"We will get there and see the kids' eyes pop open, and it will brighten their day, even if it's just for a few hours," Brooks said. "Sometimes we can take that for granted and that will really humble us."
Bradey Chard should be able to relate to the children in a way. On Oct. 5 against Bennington, he broke his leg and spent the next five weeks recovering, missing the final three games of the season.
While at the hospital, Bradey told his father the injury would probably cost him a spot in the Shrine Bowl.
"That was pretty hard on me to take," Rod Chard said. "He talked about playing in it; it was one of his goals."
But the injury healed in time for Bradey to take second in the 285-pound division at the Class 3-2-1A state wrestling tournament in February, as well as earn an invite to the Shrine Bowl.
"I was beyond excited. My dad played in the Shrine Bowl, so I'm following in his footsteps," Bradey said. "He was always proud that he went to the Shrine Bowl. He always told me that it wasn't just a game -- it was a game about the kids."
It is the interaction between the players and the children that make the Shrine Bowl an everlasting experience for all those involved. It's this "eye-opening" opportunity that makes the two-a-days and 7 a.m. wake-up calls worth it.
Although even all-star football players need their sleep.
"We run routes it seems like forever. Then you come back and do 7-on-7s and still run routes," Brooks said. "Yeah, when you get time to sleep you take advantage of it."