Past the End Zone – Football Springs Communities Nationwide Forward to Kickoff 2021

By Gehrig Parker | Posted 4/20/2021

For as long as the year 2020 felt for many of us, it’s equally head scratching to think we’re already through the first quarter of the new year and into April.

While most of us (looking at you Arizona & Hawaii) set our clocks forward last month for daylight savings time, there was also football players, coaches and teams doing their best to help their local communities spring forward to begin the year.

Let’s take a look.

Indiana Youth Coach Pays Off Students’ School Lunch Debt

Charlestown, Indiana youth football coach Jonathan Berkley is no stranger to community service. Back in November, he gave out 25 turkeys in his hometown of West Louisville, Kentucky to ensure families could share a Thanksgiving meal together.

So when his son came home in February asking if they could help his classmate pay for his school meal, Berkeley was moved to action.

"It upset him so much that it kind of upset me too," Berkeley told WHAS 11 in February.

Coach Berkeley created a Facebook page and called on local businesses for donations. Within three days, he’d raised more than $1,300. Not only did his son’s friend have their meal covered, Berkeley worked until every student in the Charlestown school community had their debt paid off.

"When it comes to community getting together, this place sets an example for the world to see.”

With money left over when it was all said and done, Greater Clark County Schools promised to put it toward an emergency fund for students who need help paying for their lunch in the future. Berkeley, whose ultimate goal is to establish a Boys & Girls Club in Charlestown someday, says above all, being called coach is the greatest gift of all.

"They still call me coach, and that's better than any kind of trophy that I can ever get. Sometimes you're the only one they have. Sometimes you're the only one they can relate to or want to relate to."

Former CU Boulder Player Helps Youth Unlock Potential

At a young age, former Colorado Buffalo running back Josh “Mode” Ford found his safe haven at the Montbello (Colo.) Boys & Girls Club.

“This is a place that saved myself and a couple other individuals,” Ford told Denver CBS4’s Mekialaya White in February. “From here, there wasn’t a lot of opportunity, a lot of outlets.”

Ford would eventually find his outlet in football, and while he excelled at Denver’s Mullen High School, he soon found himself away from the game after his grades suffered at Kansas State. But after watching Colorado’s rivalry game against Colorado State, Ford set his sights on attending and playing for the Buffaloes, and that he did.

“I had to walk on. That was challenging. It was tough because I was 10th on the depth chart, it wasn’t really looking good, but … tunnel vision.”

Unfortunately for Ford, more adversity lurked around the corner.

“My senior year, one of the top backs, PAC-12 on notice, the nation is on notice. In training camp … I break my ankle… and that led to a lot of depression.”

If his previous experiences had taught him anything, it was that he was capable of breaking out of this cage as well. Eventually, depression turned to compassion, which propelled him into action and led him to create Cagebreakers, an enterprise aimed at empowering others to break free from all that holds them back, mentally and physically, and capitalize on their potential.

Ford relies on his triumphs over life’s trials and tribulation in his work with youth in the Denver area.

“I had a lot of cages growing up. And I’ve broken out of cages, we all have cages. Self-doubt, my attitude, growing up being angry, a bunch of different things that kept me caged. But once you break out of it, you fly. A lot of people are going to try and limit you in life and dictate what you can or can’t be. You don’t let them.”

Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork

North Carolina’s Sandhill Patriots are accustomed to working towards one common goal on Saturday afternoons. Two months ago, the Patriots traded in their helmets and shoulder pads for hair nets and plastic gloves to do just that as part of a Feed the Need event through their local church.

“We want to continue to have the mindset of teaching and training young men to be good leaders with a service heart mindset,” Patriots director Joel Potter shared with the Southern Pines (N.C.) Pilot. “There’s a lot of life lessons that got learned as far as the teamwork aspect. Again, teaching the kids that nothing happens without good hard work and effort, and a lot of heart put in behind it.”

More than 100 players and 15 coaches packaged 10,000 meals, 8,500 of which were sent to Haiti and the remaining 1,500 saved for the local community dispersed to the Boys and Girls Club and other charitable organizations.

To give context to the significance of their contributions, bags were filled with rice, dehydrated vegetables and other sources of nutrients, then sealed and packed into boxes. A single box contained 40 bags, which equated to 240 meal portions, enough for one student to have meals for an entire year.

While the Patriots have since returned to the field to play a five-game spring season after the fall was wiped out due to the pandemic, they’ll return again later this year to pack meals again.

“The main lesson that we were trying to teach and that we explained to our boys was that everything is earned in life and nothing is given,” Potter said. “With that mindset, we need to be looking to serve others before ourselves. I saw a genuine love in the kids' hearts for doing this.”


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