JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -Jaguars center Brad Meester walked onto the practice field Friday wearing an Aplington-Parkersburg hat, trying to raise awareness and money for his Iowa high school that was badly damaged in a tornado last month.
Teammates, coaches, trainers, personnel staff and fans did the same.
The Jaguars treated their first day of a two-day mini-camp as much more than just another practice. It was more like an event for tornado relief in Parkersburg, Iowa.
``It means a lot to me and those back home,'' Meester said.
The Jaguars are selling the ``AP Falcons'' hats for $20 apiece, with the proceeds going to the Parkersburg Relief Fund. Players and coaches also are taking up a collection, creating a sizable donation that Meester plans to present when he returns home next week.
``The money will definitely help them out a lot,'' Meester said. ``But also just knowing that people here in Florida are thinking of them means a lot because they're definitely in a tough time right now.''
The black hats, which are replicas of Aplington-Parkersburg High's baseball caps, feature the NFL logo on one side and have ``Tornado Relief 2008'' etched on the back.
For Meester, seeing the hats all around the practice field was special.
Nearly half of his hometown in northeast Iowa, was flattened by the May 25 tornado. Eight people have died from the storm and dozens more were injured.
``Probably a third to half the town is gone, completely destroyed,'' Meester said. ``It wasn't like it hit on the outskirts of town. It went through basically the main part of the town. ... The main road that goes through town, all our stores - grocery store, gas station, banks - everything is on that street. There is absolutely nothing there.''
Meester's parents, who live about 10 miles south of Parkersburg, avoided damage. But his wife's family wasn't so fortunate. Several of Jamie Meester's relatives, including her parents and grandmother, lost their homes.
``They were healthy, which was the main thing. Everyone made it through,'' Brad Meester said. ``But their house, just in the pictures that we've seen, the roof was completely gone, the garage was gone. There's a few exterior walls still standing, but pretty much everything is completely gone. Their cars were all destroyed. It's definitely life changing.''
Meester, a 6-foot-3, 295-pound lineman who has started 119 games in eight seasons, plans to do everything he can to help rebuild the town.
He plans to spend some time there after the Jaguars complete their offseason training program next week. He also hopes to raise more money with help from fellow Aplington-Parkersburg alumni in the NFL: Detroit defensive end Jared DeVries, Green Bay defensive end Aaron Kampman and Denver center Casey Wiegmann.
He expects them to organize some charity events this summer. In the meantime, all Meester can do is try to raise money with the hats.
``I'm just thankful that the fans have come out here and started buying them,'' he said. ``Every little bit helps. It might not seem like a lot, but $20 will mean the world to them back home. We're hoping everyone can chip in something.''

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