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Wildcats champs off the field, too

That football team at Linfield College had a sensational season. Sure, it went undefeated and won the NCAA Division III national championship. Not in some ridiculous poll, either. The Wildcats won it fair and square where championships are supposed to be settled, in a grueling postseason playoff.

But that was just part of the Linfield story. Coach Jay Locey is building a program he can be proud of in other ways, too. While in Roanoke, Va., to prepare for the title game, some of the Wildcats visited a hospital. From there, with her permission, I'm going to let Emily Painter tell you the story, by way of an e-mail she sent to Locey and Linfield Athletic Director Scott Carnahan:

'Mr. Carnahan, Coach Locey and the Linfield Football Team,

'I want to start off by saying congratulations on a superior win in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, and winning the Division III national championship, and finishing a perfect season. My name is Emily Painter and I work at Community Hospital in Roanoke, Va. I was working the day that part of your football team came to the pediatric floor to visit with our patients. I was impressed with the number of players and coaches who participated.

'Being a former college athlete, I know that there are times when we as players were told that we would be participating in a community activity. I watched your players come to our floor, and I saw something that I have rarely seen from college men Ñ compassion and concern. I was truly touched to watch these men interacting with our kids. É

'One little boy, who has cancer, was scared to go to them at first. So they came to him, gave him a hat, read him some stories and gave him the feeling that someone cares about him. His mom chooses not to stay with him during his many chemotherapy treatments.

'Some of the players went to our intensive care unit to visit patients. Our child life specialist told me that the players gave one of the patients a hat they had all autographed, and then he gave them his autograph in return.

'The guys were more than willing to go to the rooms of patients who were not able to come out to our playroom.

'The fact that your men would get on the floor and play house, basketball, build things and just take the time to spread some love and joy is a victory in itself. I hope that you are extremely proud and fond of this team, because they made a lasting impression on myself and our patients.

'So not only are you national champions on the football field, but you are truly champions in life. Never let that spirit die. I hope that you would forward this on to all of your players who graced us with their presence in December. I wish you all the best of luck and a Merry Christmas.'

You made us all proud, Linfield. And you showed us what true champions are all about.

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