NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Deshawn Fuller is hoping football can help bring people together in a neighborhood that has seen its fair share of crime.
After all, it’s the shootings and other violent acts on the streets of Young Terrace that forced the long-running Clovers Football team off the field.
“[The violence] kept coaches from wanting to put kids in harm’s way.”
On Wednesday, the Clovers returned after Fuller spent two moths planning.
Fuller, who grew up in Young Terrace, says he decided in May he wanted to be a coach to keep kids busy during the summer with a positive activity.
He’s now running the show, and he’s hoping others step up and join him. Fuller says he’s in need of at least 10 more volunteer coaches.
“This is my way of acting out and my way of telling you I am going to put my money where my mouth is,” said Fuller.
The community cheered for him and the team on their first night back at the Young Terrace Community Center.
“It ain’t just somebody saying it; it’s going to be actually done,” said Ronald Davis, who lived in the neighborhood for 22 years. “It took them a long time to bring it back, but they came back with it and it gives something for the kids to do out here throughout the summer instead of running up and down the street.”
Fuller says he cares less about the short game, which is winning, and more about the long game, which is to instill values in the young men and women that will translate off the field.
“We are going to teach them family ethics,” he said. “Having this opportunity to mend wounds and be able to build bridges and be able to fix and repair families, I feel like it’s an awesome opportunity.”
About 30 kids showed up to the first practice, but Fuller is hoping to attract more than 100 players from across Norfolk that will make up four teams that will face-off against other Norfolk recreation centers.
Former NFL safety Aaron Rouse helped lead the practice and expressed the importance of education to the players.
Rouse graduated from First Colonial High School and he sported No. 88 on the Clovers as a kid. He went on to play at Virginia Tech before getting drafted.
“Always try but never, ever give up. Never give up,” said Rouse.
Fuller says MacArthur Center donated shirts and shorts for the players and California Pizza Kitchen has offered pizza for practices.
Donations are still being accepted. Fuller hopes to be able to purchase uniforms and other equipment by the start of the season on Aug. 26. If you’d like to donate to the cause or if you’re looking for more information on the program, you can contact Fuller on Facebook or at bigShawnfuller30@yahoo.com.
Those interested in playing must reside in Norfolk and can sign-up at the Young Terrace Community Center. Practices are on Tuesday and Thursday.