Flag football league kicks off
Published 2:30 pm Tuesday, July 30, 2019
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It’s time for year two.
Last summer, a new flag-football league made its debut in Troup County, with NFL standout and LaGrange native Wesley Woodyard serving as the driving force behind its creation.
The league was a hit, with dozens of young players participating in a league that’s done in conjunction with Woodyard’s 16Ways Foundation and the Troup County Parks and Recreation
There will be two age divisions, one for players ages 6 to 8, and the other for players ages 9 to 12.
Games will be played on Tuesdays and Thursdays through Aug. 15, and there will be championship games in both divisions on Aug. 17.
The games will be played at the George F. Harris Baseball Complex.
Darryl Holsey of the Troup County Parks and Recreation Commission oversees the league, and he said it didn’t take long for the teams to be filled.
“The demand was really great,” Holsey said. “We filled up in a couple of days. Once we started registration, it was pretty much full.”
While football is obviously a primary component of the league, it’s about more than that.
Woodyard wanted it be a league that emphasized teaching character and not just football, and that’s evident in the team names.
There aren’t any Cowboys, or Jaguars, or Titans, or Falcons.
The names reflect the virtues Woodyard and the other league organizers want to emphasize, so there are teams named Determined, Loyal, Sincere, Optimistic, Reliable, Patient, Joyful and Dependable.
“We let them know that (character is) very important,” Holsey said. “We try to teach them that it’s about more than football.”
Woodyard was an all-state player at LaGrange High, and he went to excel at Kentucky as a four-year starter.
For the past decade Woodyard has been a standout performer in the NFL, and he’s preparing for his 11th season as a professional player.
Woodyard began his career with the Broncos, and he’s heading into his sixth season with the Tennessee Titans.
Woodyard got his start in the sport playing on the recreation football fields in Troup County.
“We all came through this system,” Woodyard said at last year’s introductory meeting for the league. “This is almost 30 years down the line, and I’m getting a chance to come back and implement something, and help be a positive change.”
A key focus of the league is finding the right people to serve as coaches. They were selected not only for their football knowledge, but because of their ability to serve as mentors and teachers.
One of the returning coaches is Matt Napier, who is heading into his 15th season as Callaway’s offensive coordinator.
Napier believes in the importance of football in teaching lessons about life, so he’s happy to be involved in the league.
“It’s one of the few things in the world today that teaches what are you going to do when you get hit in the mouth,” Napier said. “Nothing in life teaches you like football teaches you that. You get hit out there with a mouthpiece in, you’ve got to get back up. You lay down on the ground, you’re not going to be successful. It’s one of the few things that teaches you that, and we don’t need to lose it.”
The sport has obviously meant a lot to Woodyard, and he credits the coaches he had before reaching the NFL for helping his reach his potential.
“There’s way better coaches in high school, and college, and rec league, because they care more,” Woodyard said. “When you get that one coach that really cares, you’ll do whatever you coach tells you to do. When you’re a great coach, that’s what the kids will do.”
Holsey is grateful for the kind of person Woodyard is, and what he does to help others.
“He’s pretty down to earth. He’s one of those guys that can talk to anybody. He’s very approachable,” Holsey said. “Some people of that status, you can’t have regular conversations with them. He’s not like that. He’s very community-oriented as well.”