COLLEGE PARK — The sweat on Evan Mulrooney's back glistened as the sun broke through an overcast sky. At 6 a.m. on a typically warm and humid morning, the Maryland football team put in its normal early workout at Byrd Stadium before heading off to class, work and other responsibilities.
But Wednesday was different from other morning workouts. Maryland football held it's sixth annual Lift for Life event Wednesday, sponsored by the Maryland chapter of Uplifting Athletes.
Mulrooney, a Terps offensive lineman and vice president of the Maryland chapter of Uplifting Athletes, started working with the program his redshirt freshman year and has become increasingly more involved since.
Uplifting Athletes has 25 chapters nationwide, all focused on raising money and awareness to fight against rare diseases.
Maryland's event is specifically dedicated to raising awareness and research money to fight cystic fibrosis and the Boomer Esiason Foundation. Gunnar Esiason, the son of the former Maryland and NFL quarterback, suffers from the disease and the Terps have rallied behind him and his family.
"I like to think of it as a celebration of raising money by killing yourself on the football field with an extreme workout," Mulrooney said.
Unlike a normal morning trip to the gym, the Terps held their 6 a.m. workout on the field at Byrd Stadium to provide a sampling of what lifting is like before doing their normal work inside. The team split into small groups and rotated through different weightlifting and exercise stations as media looked on.
The lift mainly serves as an exposure event, giving the media a chance to show the public what the athletes are doing at such an early hour and hoping it will encourage fans to donate, said Mark Mihalik, marketing and branding manager for Uplifting Athletes.
As Mulrooney toiled down the field, deadlifting a bar that slowly bent under the stress of the weight it was carrying, he always had one thing in mind.
Mulrooney has always known this is about more than football. A cousin of his suffers from a rare disease similar to cystic fibrosis.
"Whenever I do the hospital visits, you just see the kids' faces light up with joy," he said. "It is crazy to me to realize that being an athlete can mean so much."
Andrew Zeller, a Terps senior offensive lineman and president of the Maryland chapter of Uplifting Athletes, showed Mulrooney the ropes and helped him understand why the school holds this event.
"Lift for Life is about more than football," Zeller said. "It's really honoring to be a part of such a great foundation."
Zeller took over from previous chapter president and former Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown, who exhausted his eligibility last year.
As weights clanked, sweat dripped and training ropes whipped up and down, each player knew this workout was different from others.
"The guys have really gotten behind the event, they are starting to realize what it's all about," Zeller said.
Mulrooney emphasized the importance of maintaining connections with fellow Terps now and in the future, so they can make a difference for important causes such as this one.
"When you're a Terp, you're a Terp for life. We are connected by Maryland and can focus on helping a deeper cause," he said.
Each player on the team has an online profile where donations can be made. The team's goal is to raise a combined $15,000. Last year's event raised $12,412.
The team also held a touchdown pledge drive event for its home finale last season against Rutgers. Each touchdown the Terps scored, the athletics department pledged money to the Boomer Esiason Foundation.
"I'm just a big 300-pound oaf throwing my body into people," Mulrooney quipped. "And there's people every day that have trouble getting out of bed because of their disorder."