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Alumni football games gaining traction for local schools

Jeff Birchfield • Apr 20, 2014 at 10:01 PM

Alumni football has expanded beyond the Legends of the Musket Bowl in Washington County.

After successful games between the football alumni of Daniel Boone and David Crockett High School the past two years, the rival squads will take on other foes this time around.

The former Daniel Boone players are scheduled to play Sullivan South’s alumni at Nathan Hale Stadium on May 31. David Crockett’s former players will suit up to host North Greene’s alumni on June 21.

The games are being billed “King of the County” games with the matchups of Washington vs. Sullivan and Washington vs. Greene Counties.

“It’s been phenomenal how these games have turned out,”said Jarrod Hargrave, Southeast Regional Manager for Alumni Football USA. “We’re really excited about this Boone and South game. That’s been a pretty heated rivalry with the Trailblazers and Rebels. Then North Greene to play Crockett, we’re excited about that one too.”

Over the past two years, the Washington County community has embraced the Boone-Crockett games. Over 3,000 people attended the first game in Jonesborough.

For the schools, it’s looked at as a significant fundraiser. Alumni Football handles the costs of the uniforms, insurance, etc. through the participation fees and half of the gate revenues.

David Crockett athletic director Josh Kite said the games help the schools and communities in a variety of ways.

“It’s a great fundraiser for our programs,” Kite said. “I know the alumni appreciate the opportuninty to set foot on the gridiron one more time. It’s for the community and it’s a chance for the alumni to get out there and fellowship.”

In addition to reliving past glory, Kite touted the health benefits for many of the participants. For some, it has been an effective way to shed pounds in a short amount of time.

“I’ve spoken to some of the players who are overweight,” Kite said. “A lot of them have lost around 30 pounds. Playing this game has given them better health.”

Over the past four years, Alumni Football has promoted over 750 games which have raised over $1 million for the schools.

Besides Boone and Crockett, games in Northeast Tennessee have featured Sullivan North against Sullivan Central, Cherokee versus Volunteer and games involving all the Greene County schools.

Alumni football has made a great impact on Hargrave, who played college ball in California and later coached in the Arena Football League.

Fresh out of high school, Hargrave played his first alumni game in 1992 with an older brother who was around 35 years old at the time. He compared the experience to the Kurt Russell and Robin Williams movie “The Best of Times,” which was coincidentally set in Hargrave’s hometown of Bakersfield.

Years later, Hargrave gave up a professional wrestling career to work for the organization. After spending a couple of months in the area to promote the Boone-Crockett game, he decided to stay here and now lives in Gray. He was impressed by many of the players’ passion including one former Trailblazer, a retired Navy Chief Petty Officer who literally traveled halfway around the world to participate.

“A guy like Todd Belcher, he’s an American hero,” Hargrave said. He’s 49 years old, a military guy. He’s flown back from Afghanistan twice to play last year and the year before. He’s one of the captains that has led this thing. The guys from Crockett, they’re great guys. They’re a big reason I’m here. I’ve never felt more welcome and I love it.”

Kite added it’s an opportunity to see a rather unique sporting event involving players from different generations.

“How often do you get to see guys 18 to 55 years old playing a full-contact football game?,” Kite asked. “Would you rather go to the movies, pay $25 dollars and then spend another $10 to get popcorn and drinks, or would you rather come out watch them play football and help raise money for the school? It’s a great opportunity to get out there and fellowship and see people you haven’t seen in a long time.”

Tickets for the games are $10 each with half of the proceeds going to the schools. Those who want to play in the game may go to the Alumni Football USA website and sign up or call Hargrave at 866-843-8448.

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