Ethan Utterback will be kicking for a greater cause this season.
The Ocean Springs senior recently jump started a Kick-It.org campaign with the hope of raising funds to fight childhood cancer.
Brad Wall, who is now at Mississippi State, sponsored a similar campaign the last two years and raised more than $5,000.
Now Utterback has stepped up to the challenge, with a rather lofty goal of $4,000.
“I just remember Brad doing it and how great it was he could raise money just by playing. I think if you’re a kicker on Friday nights, why not do this?” Utterback said of the campaign. “It was really well accepted and raised a lot of money for a great cause, so I just wanted to keep the momentum going.”
The campaign is a bit more personal for Utterback than perhaps others.
His twin sister, Gloria, was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 3. Although she battled it and ultimately won 3 years later, Utterback remembers what his sister went through.
“It was still definitely a part of our lives when we were younger,” he said. “We were really young. I remember two main things. I remember a time where she had little to no hair and I remember when she would have to take all kinds of pills and medicine. I also remember that I often tagged along to the children’s hospital in New Orleans.”
OSHS coach Ryan Ross and Ocean Springs Superintendent Bonita Coleman both applaud Wall and Utterback for their efforts and strong sense of civic responsibility.
“We try to stress with our students how important it is to be active citizens in their community,” Coleman said. “(The campaigns) mean our kids really are getting the message. Hopefully they’re seeing us living the example and they’re taking the initiative to make a difference.”
Ross joked last season’s campaign was so successful that it got to the point where fans wanted the Greyhounds to attempt field goals instead of going to the end zone for touchdowns.
“I’m proud of what Brad achieved,” Ross said. “He raised thousands of dollars doing this and honestly, what it did was brought our community together. We announced it over the PA when he kicked a field goal or extra point. It just kind of caught on and the goodness spread.”
Although the Greyhounds’ season got off to a slow start Friday, Utterback made the most of his opportunities. The kicker converted a 27-yard field goal as well as an extra-point attempt.
“The kids here at Ocean Springs, we’re very blessed to have players like that who think of others,” Ross said. “Ethan is a great young man. He’s going to be a future leader, no doubt about it. He’s a sharp kid.”
Those who are interested in joining the fight against childhood cancer can either make a one-time donation or pledge a dollar amount per point Utterback scores this season by visiting Kick-It.org and entering “Ethan Utterback” into the search field.