KNIGHTDALE — A local youth football team ditched its helmets and pads for trash bags and latex gloves on Sunday, Oct. 20, as the seventh- and eighth-grade athletes spent the afternoon giving back to the community.
Sporting their game jerseys with silver numerals and “KNIGHTS” across the chest, the Knightdale Knights PeeWee players gathered at the Raleigh Rescue Mission on East Hargett Street. They spent the next hour and a half at Raleigh’s Moore Square, clearing the grounds of debris.
“I really believe football is a game that teaches you a lot about life lessons,” said Knights head coach Chris Malone, who came up with the idea for the team’s first annual community service event.
“I wanted to do something that could transfer everything we learn on the field into the community, and let the kids know they have an avenue to do something positive.”
Malone, who was coached by former NCAA D-1AA National Champion Jimmy Satterfield at Lexington (S.C.) High School, said his Knights have displayed a lot of courage, heart, determination and teamwork this season – and not just on the field.
“I’m really proud. Very, very proud of the guys,” he said.
While cleaning up the area, the Knights also interacted closely with members of the community, including the homeless. For several players, the exchange was rewarding.
“I realized the people need help,” wide receiver Tre Richardson, 12, said. “It’s not all about you or your family. It’s about other people, too.”
Inspired by the experience, 13-year-old Raquan Holder mentioned volunteering at a food bank as another way he’d like to see his team give back.
“It felt good because the homeless people out there, like – it’s crazy,” Holder said. “I think they should have a better situation for them.”
Malone and assistant coaches Garrick Tarver and Vernon Reed are open to the idea of expanding the service event next year.
Malone said it is possible the project will include the Knightdale Mini Mites and Mighty Mites in the future, making it a Knightdale Football Association-wide venture.
“It was funny,” Tarver said, “We started talking about doing it again next year, and some of the kids who are aging out asked, ‘Well, if we aren’t on the team, can we still come back and do it again anyway?’”
Defensive lineman Dorez Wynn is the Knights’ most imposing player. The middle-schooler borders on the league’s 150-pound weight limit but can still burn his teammates in end-of-practice wind sprints.
However, Wynn claims he’s as adept at sacking garbage as he is at sacking opposing quarterbacks.
“Working in the community,” Wynn said when asked which is more rewarding. “We got to pick up trash and help the homeless. We got to help clean up.”
The Knights got a lesson on teamwork their coaches hope they can use as they close out the fall season.
“Sometimes we don’t know what people are going through,” Malone said.
“It just felt good to help the community and the people that are less fortunate.”