March 02, 2017
By Lauren Jones
Young ladies are kicking soccer balls, kids are laughing while they hoist themselves into the end zone, mothers and fathers are on the sidelines cheering on their kids, and coaches are on the field well coaching. It’s a joyous day for the City of Inglewood celebrating the renovation of Champions Field, a multi-purpose sports field, at Edward Vincent Jr. Park designated for youth leagues to practice, which the City funded.
“This is a huge step in the right direction,” said William Roebuck, President of the Inglewood Jr. All-American Football League. “ This field shows that the City of Inglewood and Parks & Recreation, do care about the kids.”
In a time when many extracurricular programs like sports, the arts, and after-school programs are being cut as a result of budgetary issues, Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts is reassuring the community that these programs and the youth in the community are a priority.
“It gives the kids a safe environment; we aren’t down in the park where everyone is running through, we have a dedicated field for us to practice,” said Roebuck. “It’s something we’ve been waiting on for a long time.”
The wait is over and to officially open the new field, the city of Inglewood invited the Inglewood Jr. All-American Football league to host an exhibition game, a 7-on-7 scrimmage.
Los Angeles Chargers punter Drew Kaser did the ceremonial coin toss to kick off the game. “I remember as a little kid going out playing flag football for hours and hours,” the Ohio-native reminisced. The now 24-year said, “especially during the spring time, so to have a facility like this just in time for spring is awesome for the kids to enjoy.”
The field features new artificial turf, lights surrounding the enclosed practice facility and enough space for all 12 teams in the Inglewood league to practice at the same time if they chose to.
“The field is nice, I wish we could play on it every day,” 10-year-old Jalen Romero exclaimed. Romero has been playing for the Inglewood Jets for the past four years. His dad and younger brother stood on the sideline watching intently as Romero caught a touchdown.
There were more coaches, parents and representatives from the city of Inglewood than there were children showing support at the opening event. A concern pointed out by Jason Romero, Jalen Romero’s dad, was the lack of lights at the practice facility prior to the renovation, which made it difficult to conduct evening practices.
“It’s good to see that the city is putting some money back into the youth,” said Romero. He was equally thrilled to see the Chargers organization showing their support.
“Having the Chargers player to represent the team shows [the kids] that anything is obtainable and if they work hard, focus in the classroom, they can achieve anything they want,” said Romero.
Kaser echoed those sentiments adding that being there gave just as much joy to him as it did to the kids. “It’s awesome to be reminded of the past and the love of the game that kids have; it reminds us of what we play for,” said Kaser.
Kaser was not the only NFL representative in attendance. Former NFL running back, Johnathan Franklin, was also there representing the other new team on the block, the Los Angeles Rams, where he works in Community and External Affairs division.
“It’s such a blessing to be back and be a part of the Rams organization because we are more than just a football team, we are a resource,” Franklin remarked. “We’re here for our players to be role models, to educate and empower them to understand that life goes beyond football.”
Ironically, Franklin is an alumnus of the Inglewood Jets. He remembers practicing at Edward Vincent Jr. Park years ago. It is a full circle moment for Franklin who attributes much of his success on and off the field to football and the mentors he gained along the way.
“I believe the game of football is such a powerful sport. It teaches you leadership skills, it helps you understand humility and overcoming challenges,” said Franklin.
The Los Angeles native is no stranger to overcoming challenges. In his first season after being drafted by the Green Bay Packers out of UCLA, he suffered a spinal contusion and elected early retirement from football.
“It helps you define your identity and to gain [life] tools….playing the game of football has shaped who I am. I am thankful to hopefully think beyond football and even if you do great things in football you can dream beyond that.”
For Franklin, dreaming beyond was taking what he learned from his time played on the Inglewood Jets to his last snap in the NFL and translating that into a career in sports on the corporate side.
Jalen Romero may just become the next Marshawn Lynch as he self-proclaimed or Johnathan Franklin with the support of the Inglewood Jr. All-American football league, his family and the city of Inglewood.
This project is just another example of how the City of Inglewood is beautifying, and as Romero’s dad put it, “there is hope at the end of the tunnel whatever the scenario is during the day for them so long as they have safe haven to come out and do something that they love to do.”