The Wellington Panthers youth football program held a free skills camp at Allen Field in York City, running July 11-14
Khalid Dorsey remembers his days as a York City youth football player with the Wellington Panthers.
Nobody could've predicted the success that would come to Dorsey as he grew older. At the time, all you could see was a passion for the sport from the kid who has since developed into a star running back for the York High Bearcats.
Dorsey is just old enough to remember former York High greats such as Malik Generett and Knowledge Timmons, who went on to play NCAA Division I football. They were his role models.
These things are a chain. Dorsey and some of his current York High teammates are now part of the crop of varsity athletes who are now viewed as role models for the younger generation. Getting themselves out there, and in front of the York City youth, can only produce good things.
"I just want to help out and give back to them," Dorsey said about the Panthers' program. "When I was little, I wanted people to give back to us. It just powers you."
Wellington Sports and Recreation was a re-branded program name from the East End Bullfrogs. Marion Kinard made the change when he took over in 2006. From then until 2014, the Panthers were one of three youth football programs that kids from York City could play for. That was, of course, until Wellington shut down for a couple years. Now, the program is back up and running ahead of the 2017 season, and it's looking to attract attention.
Offering a skills clinic last week, and allowing players to sign up free of charge, can only do so much. Practicing alongside role models is what drives young kids to want to keep playing.
That's what makes the sports clinic so special and so influential for the future of Wellington Panthers football.
Aside from the 50 or so kids running around and performing drills, there were close to a dozen current and former York City products leading the charge.
At the high school level, current York High head coach Russ Stoner brought several members of his Bearcats out to coach the youngsters.
"It feels good because they look up to us and it feels good to do something for them," lineman Nate Phillips said. "They come out and support us, so why not come out and support them?"
In addition, many former York County standouts — and some not even from York County — came back to instruct the next wave of York High players. Hakeem Kinard, a York Catholic standout and current defensive back at Saint Francis, returned, and brought a couple of his teammates with him. One was current San Francisco 49ers rookie Lorenzo Jerome.
Guys such as Jerome and Kinard were proof to the younger players that, even if you're from a place such as York City, where crime is a problem that might seem tough to escape, there's always an avenue out. College football, regardless of the level, is one such avenue. If you display your skills, someone will always find you.
Still, you can't get to where Kinard and Jerome are, and where Dorsey will be, without playing. So, stepping on Allen Field last week was the first part of that process.
Having so many current and former York City standouts there to help in the development can only grow the game.
Especially considering that they were once in the same shoes that the young players are in now.
"I think it's important that all of the athletes that came through Wellington Youth Sports come back and try to help the youth," Hakeem Kinard said. "But, I think it's a great thing that it's coming back around."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org