By Thomas Sellers Jr.
As SYS Trojan Director Jeff Gibson went down the line, schools like E.E. Jeter, E.A. Harrold, Millington Elementary, Lucy echoed across the Aycock Park turf from the players. Almost every player who will line up for the Trojans this season is from a Millington Central High School feeder school.
That has been a tradition of the SYS Trojans for decades producing notable players like 2008 Mr. Football Tausean Holmes and current NFL player Alan Cross.
“Anybody who has been anything coming through Millington High School has come through this program or the program in Northaven,” SYS Coach Dennis Alexander said. “You want to say a majority came right from this park.”
This year more than 60 children will suit up for the Trojans with about 15 for the Bantams, nearly 30 on the Peewees and around 25 for the Juniors.
“We’re young,” Alexander acknowledged. “This is the first year, especially in Juniors, we’re not moving up a lot of Bantam kids. Kids are just not sticking with it like they used to. We have to get the program built back up to where kids want to be out here. Right now, we’re going to beg kids to play football. That’s unheard of.
“We get these kids now and we start grooming them at Bantam,” he continued. “This program starts to grow and gets back to where it used to be, that sends more kids to middle school. And the kids know a little bit more about football. By the time they get to high school, they might not have all the skill sets. But they have the mentality and they have the heart to play football. That’s what we’re trying to instill out here.”
Alexander noted that teaching children about the game earlier makes them safer on the field and improves their skills on the gridiron.
“That’s why Holmes and the others were so good,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of good names come through Millington playing football. The group from 2007, 2008 and 2009, all of those kids. Majority of them came through here.
“It started with this program,” Alexander added. “They were champions here — champions first here. When they got to middle school, they were champions. Then when they got to ninth grade they were champions. It just carried on over.”
Along with discipline and football basics, Alexander said toughness goes into being a champion. That’s why he wants to see former SYS Trojans come back to pass along that tradition.
“Once we start getting the local guys to come back, that’s our big push right now,” Alexander said. “We want to start getting some of those kids who played football with us back in ‘98 and ‘99. They’ve got kids now and we want to see them start pouring back into the program. Give back what we have given to you.”
Alexander said having former Trojans joining the current coaches will pump life back into the program. Right now Millington Police Officer Gibson has been the driving force behind the revitalization of the SYS Trojans.
“Right now, Officer Gibson has taken this program from scratch and rebuild it,” Alexander said. “He has run with it. He has built a connection, what we really need. He has done the legwork. He’s built a connection with these businesses and the people in the community.
“He see the people everyday as he’s patrolling,” he continued. “He’s the reason why a lot of these kids are out here today just from his patrolling. He’ll get out of his car and make himself available. He gives to these kids who just don’t have it. That’s pouring back into the community.”
All the coaches of the football and cheer programs are volunteering time for the children. Alexander noted the adults have qualified by passing background checks and taking the Heads Up Football courses.
Alexander said the Millington SYS Trojans have several goals like strengthening the relationship with the varsity Millington Trojans, keeping the outreach going throughout the city and allowing the children to have a great environment.
“If I can teach a kid how to run, block and tackle, I’ve done my job,” he concluded. “And have the attitude to play football. And that’s what all these coaches are doing right now.”