Lexington has been former University of Kentucky football player Max Godby's mission field for the past five years. The city's homeless and students at Lexington Traditional Magnet School are among those who have benefitted from his extensive volunteer work.
On Saturday, the reserve offensive lineman will graduate with a master's degree in sports leadership, one of nearly 3,000 students graduating from UK undergraduate and graduate schools this spring.
Godby hopes to land a job somewhere helping athletes with academics, but he said he's "still waiting on God to see where he directs me next."
During his time at UK, Godby went from walk-on to scholarship player to member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll — having maintained at least a 3.0 GPA — but it was Godby's volunteer efforts off the football field that set him apart.
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He worked with the Catholic Action Center to create Bucks for Backpacks, a program that provides the homeless with bags containing food, water, clothing and toiletries.
"He's a student-athlete who came to not just participate in sports but to participate in the community and make a difference," said Ginny Ramsey, co-founder of the Catholic Action Center. "I have 12,000 volunteers a year, and when they stand out like Max does, it's extraordinary."
Godby also is a co-creator of the PRIDE Academy Mentoring Program at Lexington Traditional Magnet School.
For his efforts, Godby was one of 22 college football players in the nation named to the 2014 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. He also was a 2015 recipient of the University of Kentucky Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, a humanitarian award meant to recognize those who have selflessly given to others or served others in some way.
"The good Lord has blessed me with a very great platform of college football," Godby said, "which gives me the power to say something and help out the homeless here."
UK does not generally require student-athletes to take part in community service programs, said Dustin Lewis, life skills coordinator for UK Athletics.
"But then you think about Max and his Bucks for Backpacks program and recruiting his football teammates to become involved the past two years — it's just, we didn't ask him to do any of this," Lewis said. "He did it all on his own."
Godby explains his desire to volunteer this way: "You can't really serve within your family or just within the church. You have to go outside of it. Jesus got his hands dirty, also."
Godby said he's just one of many graduating students who have given their time for good causes, pointing to UK's Dance Blue, which raised more than $1.6 million this year for pediatric cancer care. "It just shows the selflessness that our graduates have, and it's extremely humbling to see," Godby said.
Playing football, Godby said, has provided countless opportunities and experiences.
"Playing in the SEC was always a dream of mine," said Godby, who grew up in Louisville. "The chance to play football and further my education was kind of a dream come true."
Godby said there is "so much" that he will miss about UK and Lexington.
"The city of Lexington is so unique compared to anywhere else I've ever been," he said. "The city and the people are the only sales pitch this city needs."
One thing he won't miss: the construction.
"It seems like ever since I stepped on UK's campus, there's been some sort of construction going on," Godby said.
He said the ongoing expansion of Commonwealth Stadium reminds him of the work that he and his teammates put into the football program during their years at UK.
"Me and my guys in my class ... we helped put Kentucky football back on the map," he said. "We helped and contributed to making this a contender in the SEC. That's something I'm extremely proud of.
"It'll be fun to come back as has-beens and come into the new stadium and just watch the guys that we've seen develop over the years," he said.
Having been through graduation before — he earned his undergraduate degree two years ago — Godby knows a little bit about what to expect.
"People that you've known for four years, all of a sudden, they're now grown up ... they're in the real world now," Godby said. "Not only are they doing great things within Lexington, but they're spreading the Big Blue Nation into different parts of the country and even different parts of the world."