Learning the right lessons
Kids can learn plenty from youth football programs, things like how to block, how to tackle, how to punt pass and kick.
Kids from one local program learned another valuable Friday: How rewarding it is to give someone else a helping hand off the ground.
When the Detroit Cobras of the Think Detroit Police Athletic League had its equipment stolen, putting this fall's season in jeopardy of cancellation, members of the North Oakland Youth Football League's Oxford Junior Wildcats came to the rescue, donating 120 sets of shoulder pads to help replace the missing gear.
To honor that giving spirit, the Detroit Lions — who sponsor Think Detroit PAL and helped facilitate the exchange — invited nearly 60 players and coaches from the two squads to Friday afternoon's session of training camp.
“Obviously, there's the opportunity to see some of their idols,” said Jeff Miller, one of the coaches who were on hand with almost a dozen of their players. “But what I've also stressed to them is to watch what they're doing to prepare for the season, because we've just started our practices, and we're in that portion of the season where it's like, ‘Why are we doing this coach? Why are we running laps? Why are we doing this hitting drill?’ So we're trying to bring it all home for them.”
While reality may not have hit home for kids from either team, it had set in for the coaches and parents of the Cobras, who hadn't told their kids about the theft.
“We never told them, because we didn't want to get them down,” said Calvin Turner, one of the Cobras coaches on hand with nearly a dozen players of their own.
The relief was palpable when the Lions organization — led by vice president Bill Keenist, an Oxford resident — put the two organizations in touch with each other. The Wildcats program had raised enough funds to replace its own equipment, and was looking for someone to give it to.
And the Cobras were in need, and didn't want to have to forfeit the season.
“It wasn't gonna happen. We wouldn't have let it. We would have done whatever it took to make sure we played,” Turner said. “It was like an angel came down. I was like, ‘See, when you do good, good things happen to you.’ It was poetic justice.”
So was the fact that the thieves were caught when they tried to sell the stolen equipment to other PAL teams.