Morency Lends A Helping Hand On Hit TV Show
by Mike Spofford, Packers.com
Packers fans who watch the hit ABC show "Extreme Makeover Home Edition" might see a familiar face in Sunday night's episode.
Green Bay running back Vernand Morency was part of the crew that remade the home of the Westbrook family in Lawton, Okla., a couple of months ago. The Westbrook family had been struck by two separate tragedies, as father Gene was wounded and left paralyzed in the Iraq War and his son James was paralyzed in a car accident a year later.
The weeklong 'Extreme Makeover' made the Westbrook home wheelchair accessible, and the episode is scheduled to air this Sunday at 7 p.m. (CT).
"I couldn't believe a team of people could build a house within a five-day span, so I wanted to go see it, and I wanted to lend a helping hand," Morency said. "A family definitely needed it."
Morency, who played his college football at Oklahoma State, actually rounded up several athletes from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter at his alma mater to travel to Lawton. The group of roughly 15 football, soccer and track athletes joined the 'Extreme Makeover' crew for a couple of days.
They didn't stay the entire week of the construction project, so Morency is looking forward to seeing the finished product on TV Sunday night. He has no idea whether he or his fellow OSU athletes will even be shown or mentioned in the broadcast, but the trip wasn't about publicity.
"My main focus was helping the family. I could care less about TV time," Morency said. "They knew I was there, but at the end of the day, I didn't want the show to be based on an NFL player coming to help out. I wanted it to be geared on that family. We were just helping. I was in there pouring the slab, putting the framework up, the plumbing and everything. It was a fun deal for me.
"I'm excited to see it. I got a chance to be a part of something big. I go to sleep at night knowing that I had a hand in helping someone's life. I want to maximize every day to help someone."
Morency's effort stems in part from the memory of his friend and former Oklahoma State teammate Darrent Williams, who had just finished his second season with the Denver Broncos when he was shot and killed in the early morning hours of New Year's Day in a drive-by shooting outside a nightclub. He was 24 years old.
"He got a chance to touch so many lives in his short life-span, and you never know when you're going to be gone from this earth, so I want to maximize every single day," said Morency, who's 27. "Today I want to do something to help someone."
Trying his hand at construction also relates to Morency's other off-the-field activities since the 2006 season ended.
He worked as an intern for Flintco, the construction company handling the three-year renovation project at Oklahoma State's Boone Pickens Stadium. He also participated in the NFL's Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program, studying real estate development at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in two separate four-day workshops.
He's also in the early stages of establishing his own foundation, which he plans to use to provide homes for families facing difficult circumstances.
"My whole thing is about family structure, and you can't have family structure without a stable home," Morency said. "I want to try to give away at least four homes a year to single mothers or single dads or recovering drug addicts. That's who I'm trying to gear my foundation towards. The foundation will help them get into a home."
Morency hopes to have found his own NFL home right here in Green Bay. There's no predicting what the Packers will do in the upcoming draft, but with the free agent departure of feature back Ahman Green, Morency currently sits as the team's top running back.
It's an opportunity Morency will not waste, and he has taken the opportunity to chat with fellow Oklahoma State running backs Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas during the off-season to get their advice and encourgement. He has believed since being drafted in the third round by the Houston Texans in 2005 that he can be a feature back in the pros, and since the off-season strength and conditioning program began March 19, he often has been one of the first players to arrive at the stadium and one of the last to leave each day.
"I'm going to bust my rear end to be the best back here, in the NFC, and in the NFL. That's my mindset," he said. "I have the backing to do it, with the coaching staff and the players around us. I'm looking forward to this year. We're just grinding and working."
The schedule includes arriving some days as early as 6:30 a.m. to begin doing workouts in the weight room and Don Hutson Center with the other running backs. After a few hours of intensive work, Morency puts in some extra time both with the weights and on the field.
Having arrived last season during Week 2 in a trade with Houston, Morency said it took a while to get comfortable with his linemen here. He feels by watching extra film during the off-season that has improved considerably, as well as his ability to read defenses.
He said he truly looks forward to every day he can work to improve, anytime he thinks about taking a break from his self-imposed grueling schedule, he just remembers a night last season when he was at Lambeau Field watching film around 9 or 9:30 p.m. and heard a teammate arriving to do the same thing. He looked out the door and it was quarterback Brett Favre.
"I said, 'What are you doing here?' And he says, 'I'm here studying,'" Morency recalled. "The funny part about it was it was toward the end of the year when players get tired and just want to go home and sleep. It was amazing to me to see just how focused and how driven he is.
"When I saw that, I said you know what, this guy has been in the league 17 or 18 years, and I'm just tapping the surface, so who am I to not be in here as long as he's putting in? Obviously he doesn't have to be here. He's a successful ballplayer, a Hall of Famer, one of the greatest. But when you see a guy like that put in those kind of hours, it makes you want to do the same. That's why I'm here all day."