Mayor Middleton visits little league football practice

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 10, 2008

NATCHEZ — The children of the Natchez Little Falcons football team took a break from tackling and catching passes for a pep talk from Mayor Jake Middleton on Thursday.

Middleton encouraged the 6- to 12-year-old players to have heart and determination in their final game of the season Saturday, against the South Jackson 49ers.

“What are we looking like?” Middleton asked.

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“Football players,” the children responded.

“You’re not going to let them come into your house and beat ya’ll, are you?” he said.

“No,” they shouted back.

When he asked them if the other team was bigger than them, a few of the smaller players shouted back yes. But Middleton said that being small would not stop them if they had heart.

Trinity linebacker Wells Middleton is only 6 feet tall, 120 pounds, yet he’s the hardest hitting player in the football field, Middleton said of his nephew.

“Heart, determination and the will to win — if you don’t have those three things, you might as well leave your uniform at the house,” he said.

Middleton’s pep talk made some players realize the importance of those qualities.

“He was motivating us to go out and win, no matter how big or how little we are,” 12-year-old Jacorey Carter said.

But the Natchez Falcons, a branch of the Mississippi Youth Sports Association, is about much more than football, head coach Darryl Smith said.

“We did it to try to get the kids off the streets,” he said. “It’s not about playing football, it’s about education.”

And while many youth sports leagues let anyone play, children must maintain a C grade point average in their classes in order to participate, Smith said.

He said his teaches the players to put the student first in student athlete, and helps prepare them for high school and middle school sports, where students must maintain their grades.

Children from all over the Miss-Lou participate in the league, and the coaches are looking to expand the league next year, Smith said.