Cleveland Brown’s #9 Quarterback, Thaddeus Lewis and Chicago Bears #25 Running Back, Armando Allen, Jr., returned HOME to partner with the City of Opa-locka Parks & Recreation Department to conduct the Off-Season Training, Development Skills and Enhancement FIRST ANNUAL FOOTBALL and CHEER CLINIC from 10:00AM to 1:00 PM, Saturday, March 31, 2012 at Sherbondy Park Village, 390 Bahman Avenue in “The Great” City of Opa-locka.
Although rivals on the football field, the two gentlemen have actually been good friends for years in the community, and on the same football team at Hialeah Miami Lakes High School. Statistically of the 100,000 high school seniors who play football every year, only 215 (0.2%) will ever make an NFL roster. Of the 9,000 players that make it to the college level, only 310 are invited to the NFL. These two Opalockians beat the odds. Their careers took similar paths, resulting in both men playing for the NFL after earning degrees in sociology; Lewis graduating from Duke University and Allen from Notre Dame University.
A few days before the clinic, during a videotaping a Public Service Announcement to promote the Football & Cheer Clinic, the two friends tossed a football back and forth (like they did on Sherbondy Park as kids) and discussed the parallelism in their “pro” careers, filled with ideas and excitement on sharing their skills, inciting inspiration and giving hope to youth “at home” who also have the dream AND the potential for playing professionally. “Most people who want to become NFL players will not, but through the annual Football Clinics, we can help them enhance their skills and demonstrate to them how anything is possible, as long as they remain focused, disciplined, committed and work hard, on and off the field,” commented Allen. Lewis continued, “And their options are not limited to just playing ball. That’s where education, character and good behavior play an essential role while exploring additional prospects.” Allen, in spite of his success, remains in Opa-locka during off-season, added, “It is imperative to reach back to your community!” The Community and its leader embraced the player. All the commission members came out to support to the clinic.
Both Lewis and Allen were eager to work with the youth of Opa-locka, during this one-day event. As a result of their enthusiasm, both players reached out to other NFL friends and sponsors, inviting them to also participate in the clinic. During one of the initial meetings, Park Director Charles Brown, Assistant Director Lorenzo Laidler, Lead Supervisors Zonya Ray and Daicari Griffin began reviewing a checklist of supplies and equipment needed for the clinic, when Allen “stepped-in,” making reference to some of the items listed, and said, “Don’t worry about that… I already got it!” Simultaneously, Lewis could be overheard on his cell phone talking to his Manager about securing sponsorships from the makers of Power-Aid and Zico Coconut Water. The guys “drafted” a team of trainers to assist with the seven football stations and the cheerleaders. Recruited were: Kimbrick Baker, Davin Bush, Mercedes Cochran, Daicari Griffin, Terrell Johnson, Nakia Lambright, Constance Logan, Zonya Ray, Jontikqua Roberts, Shaquira Ray, Raneesha King, Asia Virgil and inspirational coach Calixto Vallejo. “We are serious about this Football Clinic, we had to bring in the Calvary” declared Lewis, to which Allen added, “To whom much is given, much is required!”
Grades 5th through 8th were allowed to participate in the Football Clinic, but ALL ages were able to take part in the Cheer Clinic. Close to 100 youth registered, but many watch from the sideline, unable to participate this year due to parents not submitted the consent forms to the Parks and Recreations Department. Nevertheless, the onlookers were happy to settle for an autograph or a T-shirt from the “hometown heroes.” Both Lewis and Allen said they will always return home to Opalocka, but for now they will have to return to the NFL training camp to perfect THEIR skills to bring a bigger and better clinic back to the City of Opa-locka.
For information on participating in next year’s Football and Cheer Clinic, The National Pitch, Hit & Run Competition sponsored by Major League Baseball and Aquafina, the soccer camp or any other Parks & Recreation Department events call: Ingram Park at 305.953.3042 (M-F, 8:30 am- 5:00 pm) or Sherbondy Park at 305.953.2875 (M-F, 7:30 am-9:00 pm).