Hillbillies proving to be just as successful off the field

The Fredonia Hillbilly football program has certainly had its fair share of success on the field the past few years.

Now, the coaching staff, headed by varsity assistant coach Robert Brown, is making sure the players are successful men off the field.

“We try to develop character and build it through community service,” Brown said. “The program is intended to help instill or reinforce positive values in athletes. It follows the precepts of, ‘Building men for others’ program outlined in the book ‘Season of Life’ by Jeffrey Marx. It emphasizes that being a man means emphasizing relationships and having a cause bigger than yourself. It means accepting responsibility and leading courageously. It means that empathy, integrity and living a life of service to others are more important than points on a scoreboard. With the support the community has given the sports programs here, it’s time to give back. It’s just a great opportunity and a win-win situation.”

Brown and a handful of varsity football players met with Fredonia Mayor Stephen Keefe in May to get a list of projects to complete. From there, 25 football players volunteered their time to sand and varnish the nearly 30 benches at Barker Commons.

Other projects include spending time with the youth football players to demonstrate proper tackling techniques, as well as helping out with the upcoming Farm Festival.

“We collect kids who are available,” Brown said. “The kids have jumped in head first and are happy to do this. When you see a program do this, you think, ‘Why can’t we?’ Players have time to do that. With financial restraints the community has, they are looking for volunteers. The younger kids see the older kids volunteering and will start to follow their lead.”

After the players completed the benches in Barker Commons, the players received a motivational speech from former pro football player Mike McCoy, who was a consensus All-American at Notre Dame, was voted Lineman of the Year by the Associated Press and finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting his senior year. McCoy was the second player drafted overall in the 1970 NFL draft by the Green Bay Packers, just behind Terry Bradshaw. McCoy spent 11 years in the NFL.

“All the players are volunteering their time,” Brown reiterated. “No one has to do it and that’s what it’s all about. After we were done with the benches and McCoy spoke, I asked the boys who was willing to volunteer again with the Farm Festival and painting the meter poles. Everyone’s hand went up when I asked. It’s neat to see teenage boys volunteer like that.”

Once the school year begins, and the players will not have much time to volunteer, the players will take part in group sessions once a week before practice.

“We will do programs about character traits like humility and courage,” Brown said. “We want to hit home with these guys. Every week we will talk about different aspects of life. The interesting thing is, a coach I talked to in Pittsburgh did a similar thing. He started it and allowed them to talk. He said at first, he led a lot, but by the end of the year, the kids were running it – talking about topics such as integrity and fidelity.

Brown noted the honest fact that many of these players will not have the talent to continue their football careers in college, but most all the players will someday become co-workers, husbands and fathers.

“We want to instill character,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity. The nice thing is, it gives the boys an opportunity to be together off the field and grow a greater sense of brotherhood. It’s nice to instill positive role models in these kids. We want to take advantage of these young men and support the community. We are starting now, and there is no better time than the present. We are hoping to continue to do this. It’s not a one-shot deal. We want to do other things and hope it becomes contagious. Getting young people to volunteer is great. They have enjoyed doing this and they are making efforts to continue to do it.”