MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The University of Memphis football team is getting ready for the AutoZone Liberty Bowl on and off the field.
Wednesday, the team spent time with a group of kids in a fight much bigger than a bowl trophy.
Like Santa arriving at people's homes the night before Christmas, the Memphis football team arrived at St. Jude bearing gifts.
"To see the interaction and the appreciation of our players and to be able to build some of these relationships and to help brighten a day is pretty special," head coach Mike Norvell said.
One by one the players signed autographs for the children who, despite battling some tough diseases, showed up with smiles on their faces--excited to meet their gridiron heroes.
"It's just humbling to see them smile. Doing stuff like this goes a long way," running back Patrick Taylor said.
But it wasn't just the children who were changed by the experience, the players, like punter Spencer Smith, also left inspired.
It's the reason he's come back to St. Jude for this unique experience for each of the last four years.
"It's pretty awesome to come here. You think you're making a big impact on them but it's really them making an impact on us," Smith said.
Football players are known for their toughness on the field, but this team formed bonds that last much longer than a football game.
"Make new friends. Learn about their life. What they have to go through. Put the negatives behind them. Put the negatives behind us as well and be positive through it all," Smith said.
The players will move from St. Jude to the Liberty Bowl on Saturday where they take on Iowa State.