November 23, 2011 12:00AM
This year’s Thanksgiving holiday for Pittsburg State University’s MIAA-Championship football team may not resemble a Norman Rockwell painting, but local food service providers are doing their best to ensure that even if the football players can’t make it home, they’ll at least get a taste of it.
With PSU’s first playoff game versus Washburn scheduled for Saturday afternoon at Carnie Smith Stadium, the team (125 young men from all parts of the United States) needs to stay close this weekend. After a practice on Thanksgiving morning, players and their families will sit down to a traditional Thanksgiving meal at noon at PSU’s Gibson Dining Hall. On Wednesday and Friday, the team and coaches will also be treated to meals from Chatters Grill in Pittsburg.
Pittsburg State Assistant Football Coach John Pierce, who organizes much of the team’s travel and eating arrangements, said although the players not suiting up for Saturday’s game are allowed to go home after Thursday’s practice (only 54 are allow ed to suit up for a playoff game), many of them will return to support the team. The Thanksgiving meal at Gibson Dining Hall, which Pierce estimates will serve around 100 players and family members, is a meaningful gesture by the university to support the team.
“We’re trying to make arrangements for all our players - making sure they have family or friends to spend the holiday with. For all the guys who can’t go home, we wanted to find a way to make this special for them,” said Pierce.
It means a lot to players like Andrew Castaneda, a junior receiver from Salinas, Calif., who will be staying in the residence halls, along with two roommates (and teammates) from Florida.
“You know how everyone has their favorite holiday? Thanksgiving is ‘my’ holiday. We always make a big turkey and all my family is there. It’s kind of sad because this is the first year I can’t get home,” said Castaneda, whose family combines Mexican dishes with traditional Thanksgiving fare.
Laughing, he added that he still needs to let Mom and Dad know he won’t make it home this year: “They know we’re in the playoffs, so it’s OK.”
With so many Pittsburg State fans looking forward to Saturday’s game, Coach Pierce said making the holiday meaningful for the players is just one of the many ways PSU expresses its appreciation to the team. “To see people go out of their way and work on a holiday like this, it just shows how generous people are.”