Jeff Hurn has seen the networking power of University of Alabama football for years. As the director of S.D Allen Ministries, former UA football players have been able to bring massive attention and resources to the program.

The most recent example: former UA football player Keaton Anderson raising over $50,000 via goatees.

What started as a grooming project among friends during quarantine became much larger than that: an impromptu fundraiser that, with the help of prominent former UA players, raised $51,600 for the Tuscaloosa County school system and the Florence school system (Keaton’s hometown).

“We’re not fundraisers. This is definitely our first rodeo with all that,” Anderson said. “For us to get everybody together and get the communities involved was great to see.”

The goatees started as something Anderson and some friends would groom during their quarantines, while practicing social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the list of participants grew, Anderson realized he had something more serious than a robust group text on his hands.

That’s when he involved Hurn. While Anderson was earning a master’s degree from UA, he worked with Hurn for a semester and the two have since worked together on other projects. Anderson went to Hurn looking for a cause to benefit from a potential quarantine goatee fundraiser — and approached Hurn with perfect timing.

Hurn’s primary job with S.D. Allen Ministries is to provide beds for homeless veterans, children in need or low-income families who otherwise would not have them. The pandemic made that impossible for safety reasons, but Hurn still had the desire to help people in need. Hurn’s wife is a middle school teacher, giving him personal experience in how some families depend on schools for child care and meals — and the ideal target for Anderson’s fundraiser.

Anderson is a Florence native who played for UA, giving him reason to benefit both school systems, and the friends he made playing football in both cities gave him plenty of contacts to spread the cause.

“Once we started getting traction in both local communities, we set a goal for $10,000 and we hit it with ease,” Anderson said. “We said, ‘Can’t stop now,’ so we set another one at $25,000, then set another goal at $35,000.”

Both of those goals were easily accomplished, as well. Those goals came crashing down as the network expanded to prominent former UA players such as Damien Harris (current New England Patriot), Bradley Bozeman (current Baltimore Raven) and other recent contributors such as Hale Hentges and Ross Pierschbacher.

“To have them join in and be a part of it was so cool,” Anderson said.

Anderson also reached out to friends with professional social media experience and another that designed a logo for the fundraiser, all of them helping the cause grow greater than simple name recognition of athletes; the fundraiser got donations from California, New York and Hong Kong, and countless points in between.

On the final day of the fundraiser, they stood between $48,000 and $49,000, on the brink of their $50,000 goal. When the final day ended, the cause got to $51,600. Those that contributed were allowed to earmark their funds for one of the two communities, so while it was not a perfect 50-50 split between the two, Anderson said it was very close to it.

The money is already with the people that need it. Hurn has already delivered the check to Tuscaloosa County School System superintendent Dr. Walter Davie, and the Anderson family will be doing the same for the Florence schools.

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson