Honoring MLK on the field

By Tim Guidera - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) – They honored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by keeping their own dream alive.

"I'm trying to make it to the next level,'' said Jermaine Mansell, a member of the Savannah Venom football team. "Hopefully a scout will be out here checking me out.''

The semi-professional Venom chose today for their first exhibition game in a new league, the United Football federation, and the next step in staying a part of the game they all grew up playing.

"Oh, man, it's a passion, it's a pleasure,'' said Venom safety Charles Barnwell. "You know, not many people are ranted this opportunity. But since I'm granted it, I want to thank the Lord who blessed me and I'm going to have fun."

"And that's enough for many of these players who range in age from 18 into their thirties, former high school athletes and some with college experience, all who have made a commitment on the field and just to get on it.

"We're serious about it,'' Caleb Person said about the Venom players, who provide their own equipment and pay for their own travel during a 10-game regular season if they can't raise the money with car washes. "We practice every day from 7:30 to 10:00 at night. We don't joke.''

Some play in hope of the longest of long shots.

"Many guys went off to college just by playing semi pro,'' said Barnwell. "They can get a look in high school, come out here and mature their game a little bit and took off to college.''

Most play because they still can, because other responsibilities will take them away from the field or soon they'll be too old to hit or be hit.

"We do it because we love it,'' said Mansell. "That's why I'm out here, because I love the game and I can't let go.''

But today, they all played with an added sense of significance, one less about individual futures than a shared path to the present.

"First of all, we're going to honor Dr. King,'' said Barnwell. "Seeing that everyone's out here, coming together, just having fun and just seeing where we came from with all the racism and everything. But now we're out here and we're having fun in remembrance of Dr. King.''

The Venom will begin regular-season play in February.

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