September 25, 2019

O’Donnell Loves Helping Youth In Community

Matt O’Donnell not only towers above his Eskimos teammates at six-foot-11, but he’s also a giant in the community.

The eight-year veteran offensive lineman was recognized for his outstanding off-field contributions on Tuesday night when he was presented with the David Boone Award at the Eskimos Annual Dinner, presented by Postmedia Solutions, at the Edmonton Convention Centre.

“If we can just affect a little bit of change every single day, we’ll make the world a better place,” O’Donnell said about the community-owned Eskimos’ commitment to helping out in the city and nearby rural areas. “We pride ourselves on giving back as much as we can.”

The David Boone Award was created in 2005 in memory of the legendary Eskimos defensive lineman, a five-time Grey Cup champion (1978-82), CFL all-star in 1981 and three-time West Division all-star who spent countless hours helping the less fortunate.

O’Donnell, 30, felt honoured to be recognized for displaying similar characteristics to what Boone stood for on the field and in the community as well as previous David Boone Award winners who are still on the team like long-snapper Ryan King (2015, 2018), fullback Calvin McCarty (2014) and Head Coach Jason Maas (2005).

“Those guys are great in the community,” said O’Donnell, who has always tried to follow in their footsteps. “The Eskimos are great about offering lots of opportunities to reach out to the community and help out as much as you can, whether it’s talking to kids about Internet safety and healthy active living, supporting the troops with tickets or foundations or anything like that.”

O’Donnell spent 64 hours visiting schools, community groups and amateur football teams this year through the Eskimos’ TELUS Champions in the Community program, promoting literacy, health and wellness, and anti-bullying initiatives as one of the Eskimos’ specially-trained TELUS Wise ambassadors.

“Definitely reaching out and trying help the kids,” he said about his favourite activities to support. “Internet safety is a big thing these days. We didn’t have it as fast and advanced as they do now in the palm of their hands. We had to go to some horrible, dial-up Internet in our school and it wouldn’t work as well. These guys can talk around the world at a push of a button.

“So just teaching them that it’s about safety,” he explained. “It’s not a scary thing. You don’t need to be afraid. You just need to be informed.”

Andrew Jones, the Eskimos Coordinator, Community Relations, said O’Donnell was recognized not only for what he does in the community, but also for what he does within the Eskimos locker room.

“When we’re doing the food drive for Edmonton’s Food Bank, he organizes all the offensive linemen and other positions to bring food in,” Jones pointed out. “When we were doing the Canadian Armed Forces game, he got a bunch of guys to donate their (Trevor Harris) bobbleheads so that we could give them all back and the tickets to members (of the military). He’s always organizing.”

True to his nature, O’Donnell talked Tuesday night about trying to get some of his teammates out for a Thanksgiving appearance at the Hope Mission on the day before the Eskimos’ next home game on Saturday, Oct. 12, against the BC Lions.

“There’s no shortage of guys doing hard work out there in the community,” O’Donnell said. “That’s why it was just an honour to be singled out for this award.”