With the National Football League coming to a close earlier this month, football fans might think that there is nothing to truly cheer for until next fall. That's not the case for hundreds of children in the East Bay.
Thanks to Next Level Football and Serra High School head coach Patrick Walsh, roughly 200 youngsters in Oakland are able to compete in a flag football league on the Laney College gridiron for free.
That opportunity is nothing but a blessing if you ask the parents.
"It was a great experience," Tania Mitchell from Oakland said. "My kids love it."
Joe Holland from San Leandro added that the program is beneficial for a community in need of some positivity.
"Every week, it's amazing how these kids are learning and having fun," he said. "That's what it's really about."
Student-coaches from Laney College are paid by Next Level Football to instruct the up-and-coming athletes, but everything else is covered, including the price to use the junior college facilities. Providing a free-of-charge extracurricular activity to the children who call the East Bay community home does much more than teach them the "X's and O's" of the game, according to Maurice Jones-Drew, a former running back in the NFL and East Bay native.
"It's always good to give back and give kids a chance to see other things other than what they see in their everyday life," he said.
Walsh has been working on installing the program for three years. To see it pay off it a true treat.
"The smiles and the joy and the love and seeing these kids score touchdowns, it's a beautiful thing," he said.