We have all seen the image before. The one with the reporter doing a broadcast live from the site of a natural disaster as pictures or video of it are flashed on the screen.

Northwest Missouri State football star Jake Soy has seen the impact of a disaster with his own eyes. His visit to Haiti for a mission trip after the country was rocked by an earthquake in January of 2010 gave him that chance.

“It was life-changing to see the damage,” Soy said. “You don’t realize how bad things are until you see something like that. It was tough to see the destruction that was caused or see a little kid walking around picking up food off of the ground to eat it because he is starving.”

Soy went to Haiti with other students from Northwest Missouri State and members of the Countryside Christian Church in Maryville, Mo.

For Soy, the chance to be a volunteer on a mission trip was a dream come true. In the past, he had a hard time finding a window of opportunity to go because of the demands of being a college football player.

“I always wanted to do it,” Soy said. “Things just never worked out before because the trips were always scheduled during the [Division II] playoffs. When it finally worked out where I had a chance to go, I took advantage of it.”

Making a trip to Haiti isn’t cheap, though, and Soy had to raise his own money to go. It didn’t turn out to be much of a problem.

“I had a fundraiser back home in Iowa and a lot of family and friends helped me out,” Soy said. “I was fortunate to have a lot of support and I’m glad I had a chance to go over there.”

They loved the attention we gave them. They smiled a lot and they really enjoyed it if you held their hands and walked with them. It was a lot of fun being around them and it was nice knowing we had a positive impact on their lives.
-- Northwest Missouri State WR Jake Soy on helping children during a mission trip to Haiti

Soy is accustomed to dealing with challenges. He plays for one of the premier programs in DII football and is one of the top receivers in the country. Two years ago, he led the country in receiving yards (1,556) and touchdown receptions (27).

But having to deal with opposing defenses and grinding through practice and workouts in an effort to be a top receiver hardly compares to the work that goes into making life better for children who have so little.

Soy and the other volunteers cleaned up a piece of land that was rugged and infested with scorpions, helped set up an irrigation system and planted gardens. They also helped rebuild a road that had been destroyed by the quake.

“We did what we could to make things more suitable and livable for the people there,” Soy said. “It was a lot of hard work but it was definitely worth it. It’s a great feeling to be able to help out people who are less fortunate than you are. You could tell the work we did made a difference in their lives.”

There was time for fun as well. Soy had a chance to play football and soccer with 60 children from two orphanages, including 42 who lost their parents in the earthquake.

“Soccer is definitely the universal language over there,” Soy said. “We tried playing football with them, but they wanted to kick that around like a soccer ball, too. They didn’t care too much about playing football.”

It didn’t matter what sport they played, though. The most important thing to the children was having people around them who cared.

“They loved the attention we gave them,” Soy said. “They smiled a lot and they really enjoyed it if you held their hands and walked with them. It was a lot of fun being around them and it was nice knowing we had a positive impact on their lives.”

It’s hardly a surprise that Soy was willing to sacrifice part of his offseason for the chance to do mission work. He learned at a young age from his parents about the value of giving back and has never forgotten about its importance. He also spends time reading to students at elementary schools and has been a counselor at Northwest Missouri’s summer football camp throughout his career with the Bearcats. He is a part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Northwest Missouri as well.

His efforts earned him the Ken B. Jones Award, which is given each year to a male and female athlete in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association that shines on the field, in the classroom and in the community.

On the football field, he is a nightmare for opposing defenses. A 6-foot-3 receiver from Durant, Iowa, Soy caught 83 passes for 1,311 yards in 2010 and helped the Bearcats win their fifth consecutive MIAA championship.

Soy has been an impact player this year as well. He has 16 receptions for 385 yards and three scores. The Bearcats, ranked seventh in the nation, are 5-1 overall and 4-1 in the MIAA.

Soy's goal is to lead the Bearcats to another conference title and the program’s first national title since 2009. No matter what happens on the field, however, he has certainly enjoyed his experience at Northwest.

“I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to play here,” Soy said. “The family atmosphere is the best thing about the football team and I’ve had the chance to be around lot of great people. It’s been an experience I will never forget.”