The Apache Junction High School varsity football team got back to campus at about 12:45 a.m. Saturday morning following its road victory at Canyon del Oro in Tucson.
By 8 a.m. the players were back on campus for their normal Saturday morning film session, which ended at approximately 11 a.m. The players were tired and sore, and an afternoon of rest and relaxation sounded perfect.
But that’s not what the 11 players on the offensive and defensive lines did. Coach Bruce Binkley is insistent his players take part in community outreach and so, for nearly three hours, the linemen and defensive line coach Lance Uehling went to the home of an elderly Apache Junction couple named George and Margaret and helped them move their furnishings across the street to a new retirement community.
A refrigerator. A sofa. Two recliners. A dresser. If it was heavy, the Prospectors’ linemen grabbed it and moved it.
For Binkley, it’s all part of the job. Nearly every weekend, his team is in the community helping out. The day after the move, players were cleaning at an Apache Junction VFW post. As Binkley sees it, he’s more than a football coach and his players are more than what they do on Friday nights.
“It’s about the program and culture we’re trying to build,” said Binkley, who had been contacted by a friend of the elderly couple asking for help. “If it’s just about us it has zero value. I’ve been in this community a year and a half and the people are phenomenal. These are great kids, too. They just are.”
At one point during the move, Margaret offered the players cash for their help.
“I told her, ‘That’s not the intention,’” Uehling said. “She said she’s going to make a donation to the team. One of the football players chimed in and said, ‘You’re part of the team. You’re part of the community. We’re not looking for money. We’re doing this because you’re a community member and so are we.’”
Senior center J.C. Taylor put it another way as the players headed to the couple’s house.
“If an elderly woman hurts herself moving what does that say about us?” he said. “My stuff, what I want to do as a teenager can wait. Let’s go help these people.”
Uehling, who was raised in Apache Junction and has coached at the high school for years, said Binkley’s commitment to turn his boys not just into good football players but into good men is unlike anything he’s seen.
“I’ve never witnessed anything like this in my life,” he said. “It’s not just a sales pitch. It’s what he does.”
Editor’s note: Scott Bordow is Apache Junction Unified School District’s director of communications and community engagement.