FOOTBALL GUIDES KIDS’ COMMUNITY VALUES

Donald “Yusef” Rogers holds the coin toss at Eastside Park to begin Game 1 of F.L.A.G. Football last Sunday. (Photo courtesy of Chris Melvin; photo below by Stacie Fanelli. Click to enlarge)

By DANIELLE TEPPER

Red Bank Police Detective Joey Fields, local high school athletic talent scout Christopher Melvin, and McDonald’s employee Donald “Yusef” Rogers have been a band of brothers since their days growing up together in the borough. Now, the three have put their heads together to create a way to keep the noses of Red Bank’s youth clean during the summer stretch.

A couple weeks ago, Rogers suggested a friendly Father’s Day pick-up football game, an idea that Fields gave a creative spin to and turned into a community-wide event to promote wholesome fun and involvement.

“He came to me with it for fun, and I threw a twist into it,” said Fields, seen at left. “I said, ‘We could use the football as a tool to say, hey, if you want to be involved in this game, you have to be willing to stick around afterward to do something for the community.’ ”With the support of the RBPD and the parks & rec department, thus was born the month-long F.L.A.G. (Father’s Love and Guidance) Football Tournament, which was kicked off at last Sunday at Eastside Park. Open to anyone in Red Bank or the immediately surrounding towns, the games will continue for the next three weeks, each followed by a community event such as a cookout, movie day, or furniture drive.

Players are broken into four 15-man squads named for NFL names (Bills, Cowboys, Saints, and Steelers) with  jerseys. Sportsmanship awards will be given, the organizers said.

Participation is free. “We’re not looking for handouts,” Fields said. “We’re paying for it ourselves. We’ll accept donations to keep it running, but it isn’t meant to be a money event.” Also offered at each game will be packets of resources for parents looking for tutors or help for their children.

“Father’s Day was a huge success,” said Melvin. “The turn-out of participants and fans was tremendous and should only enhance as people hear about we are doing.”

Added Fields, “So far, everyone’s been really supportive. They all want to see it succeed.”

The next game, with cookout to follow, is scheduled for Sunday at 10 a.m. at Count Basie Park. Anyone interested in participating is welcome to stop by.