The Wellington Panthers youth football program held a free skills camp at Allen Field in York City, running July 11-14
Delondo Boyd didn't really have any reason to be at Allen Field on Tuesday evening, helping out as a volunteer for the Wellington Panthers' free football clinic.
Being from Maryland, Boyd has little connection to York City, and the only reason he was at the field at 900 Hay St. was because one of his teammates from Saint Francis University, Hakeem Kinard, asked him to help. Kinard is a York Catholic High School graduate.
Boyd, however, needed little persuasion to show up. He was more than willing to help the youth of an inner city learn the basics of football and promote the game.
"When Hakeem told me that they were having this little thing for the kids, and I play football, so I was encouraged just by word of mouth," Boyd said.
Role models helping out: Saint Francis is hardly a powerhouse football program and is probably little known outside of Pennsylvania. Yet, guys such as Kinard and Boyd were heroes to some of the York City kids at the clinic. They're role models that there is a path out of the city and to college through football.
They weren't the only guys lending a hand, either. York High head coach Russ Stoner had several of his players there to instruct the next generation of York High football players, with linemen Nate Phillips, X'Javier Ramos and Dahmer Banks working on blocking drills, while standout running back Khalid Dorsey was working on running drills.
None of those athletes, however, were the main attraction. That role belonged to Lorenzo Jerome, another of Kinard's teammates at Saint Francis, who is now in the NFL as a rookie defensive back for the San Francisco 49ers.
Jerome remembered the days when he was just beginning football and looked up to NFL players like they were stars. And even when no big-name schools came calling for his services in college, he still managed to find a way to the NFL, which is what he was hoping to pass on to the kids at the camp.
"As I walked out here, they looked at me like I was some kind of legend and I'm like, 'Not really, man.' I'm still in the same position — grinding to be the top guy. It's a good feeling to come back and show the kids the ropes of football and teach them the basics of football."
Reviving a program: The main premise of the camp wasn't for the kids to work alongside members of the Bearcats' varsity team and college athletes.
That was used as a promotion to get kids out to the free camp to garner interest in the Wellington Panthers' youth football program.
Marion Kinard, the father of Hakeem and recent York Catholic grad and Mercyhurst-bound Jakkar Kinard, took over the program back in 2006. At the time, the team was named the East End Bullfrogs, dating all the way back to the 1970s. It's the program that Marion grew up playing for and, when given the chance to take control, he did and re-branded the entire program to Wellington Youth Sports and Recreation, named after the Wellington Projects, where he grew up.
From 2006-14, the program was one of three youth football teams in York City, along with the York Bears and York Boys' Club Raiders. But, for the past two seasons, Wellington hasn't fielded a team.
To combat that, Marion Kinard said it was his idea to make it a free program because many of the kids grow up in single-parent homes and can't afford the costs of youth sports. So, through fundraising efforts and sponsors, all expenses are paid for, from registration, to equipment, to travel.
Upcoming season: This season, the team will take part in the Maryland Youth Football Association and play five games on the road and five games at Allen Field, which will require buses for all trips. Wellington Youth Sports and Recreation is also in the midst of raising money to renovate Allen Field and add a new scoreboard. Kinard said that local businesses have footed most of the bills through sponsorships, but small fees will be raised through typical fundraisers, such as concession stands, car washes and other events.
The kids are also in the process of raising enough money to go to Hersheypark for a day in August. They'll also take two trips to watch college football games this fall, one to Saint Francis to watch Hakeem play and another to Mercyhurst to see Jakkar. On July 23, there will be a raffle drawing at the York Revolution game for three San Francisco 49ers T-shirts signed by Jerome, with benefits going toward the program.
The skills camp runs through Friday, from 5-7 p.m. each evening, and is open to anyone ages 5-15. Kids were learning the basics of pass rushing and blocking on the line and, at skill positions, were working on cuts while running with the ball and working on passing routes and catching as receivers.
A rough estimate on the first night of the camp on Tuesday saw probably 50 or 60 kids in attendance. If the majority of them register for the upcoming season and more show up over the next couple days, then the revival of the Wellington Panthers will be off to a good start.
"I think this whole, entire thing is a great thing for our community," Stoner said. "It's a great thing to revamp football. It's a great thing to promote the city, itself, and, ultimately, these little guys are the ones that come into being part of our program."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at pstrohecker@yorkdispatch.