ARMOLD: York High grad using 'gift of football' to change young lives
For Javan Matthews, football has always been much more than a game.
The 2003 York High graduate credits the sport with providing him with options and guidance in his life, as well as a chance to stay out of trouble and avoid the dangers of running the streets.
Now, the former York Capitals defensive lineman/linebacker is using the game to give others a similar opportunity.
With his playing days behind him, the recently-retired Matthews has formed the York Generals — an amateur outdoor football team.
The idea is to provide another alternative to trouble for the young men on the roster who aren't quite sure what life has in store for them next, while also giving them a chance to continue playing the game they love.
"It means a lot to me," Matthews said of starting the team. "Coming up I didn't have too much guidance and football pretty much kept me out of trouble. That was pretty much my idea. God gave me the gift of football and I want to use it to reach out to these young men."
Matthews, 29, says a fair amount of the roster is comprised of players in their late teens and early 20s, the demographic he is trying to reach.
"A lot of young men are going to jail right now because they don't have guidance, they don't have anything to keep them out of trouble," Matthews said "I'm just trying to give them something to do to keep them out of trouble."
More than the game: While his new venture serves as an opportunity for players to continue participating in the sport they love, Matthews' hopes for his players go well beyond the gridiron.
Besides hopefully serving as a deterrent to getting mixed up in drugs or violence, one of the biggest commitments to Generals' players is the team's career-oriented approach.
Matthews says for those on the team who might benefit, the team is in the process of working with local officials to set up ties to area career-services organizations. These companies can help players with things such as resume writing, interview preparation and job placement.
"I see a lot of guys from age 17 to 21 that come out of high school, they don't know what to do, they're lost," Matthews said.
Matthews also intends on playing off connections made during his days in the arena game to potentially help open doors for Generals' players to latch on with indoor teams.
In fact, one such connection that Matthews noted, Capitals' owner Isaac Carn, was instrumental in helping him get the team off the ground.
Matthews is hoping the Generals can serve as a pipeline for the Capitals and accentuate the local flavor of the two teams by further stocking their rosters with homegrown talent.
While done lacing up the cleats, Matthews will remain with the Capitals as a line coach next season. He is also the offensive/defensive line coach with the Generals.
Part of the community: One of the things that stood out to Matthews during his time with the Capitals was the support the team received from the community during its run to the American Indoor Football title this year.
Matthews says it was encouragement from local fans that helped spark his efforts to create the Generals.
One local business, G's Jook Joint on Princess Street in York, owned by Matthews' cousin, April Collier, has already offered assistance in getting the team off the ground. G's has been helping the team with various administrative costs, among other things.
A grateful Matthews hopes more support will follow, hoping to emulate the level he witnessed with the Capitals.
Matthews also expressed an interest in wanting Generals' players to be active within their community. He spoke of a particular interest in mentoring area youth, by speaking with them about life and helping them see the various options they have after school in order to stay away from the wrong choices.
"Tell them their stories, and how football changed their lives," Matthews said.
An August start: The Generals, who will play in the Independent Football League, begin their inaugural season in August. Matthews is awaiting final scheduling from the league, which has teams in Philadelphia, New Jersey and Delaware. Games will take place on Saturdays and home contests will take place at Small Athletic Field in York.
With a lot of the team's skill positions covered, the Generals are still looking for offensive and defensive linemen, as well as linebackers, Matthews said.
And while the team will certainly be focused on winnings games, success this year can take many forms.
"If it keeps these guys out of trouble and in the game, and help them in their lives," Matthews said. "That's the goal."
— Reach Elijah Armold at email@example.com; @EADispatch on Twitter. Javan Matthews can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.