I think I found it this past weekend in a small town in Rockland County, NY.
It’s called the “Collegiate Development Football League.” Based in the little town of Hilburn, the CDFL really is the “second chance” for 18-24 year olds who feel they can still play the game at a high level. The brainchild of Father and Son football coaches George and Peter St. Lawrence, The League has held “combine-like” workouts for the last several months, and has a growing following.
“Our objective is not to get you beat up,” said the elder St. Lawrence to the assembled players at Saturday night’s workout. “It is to expose your skill or lack of it, and we mean that in a good way.” Here is a man who understands that injured players can’t do anything to help your status in getting a developmental football skills program started. Nor can they say anything good about how they are treated if the suspect they are being used as training camp fodder. Not the case here as everyone is treated fairly, and like family. Even the Reporter/Scout who shows up for the first time gets the VIP treatment.
While we will examine the Coaches in the next installment, let’s focus on some of the players. All have interesting backchannel stories that deserve telling, but here are four, plus an honorable performance mention.
Anthony Carillo is a QB who has gotten used to adversity on and off the field of play. After his High School playing days, Anthony went on to what he hoped would be four more years of football at Frostburg State. After injuring his shoulder, and his father surviving a near fatal accident, Anthony had to put both his college and football careers on hold to go home and help out. The CDFL has truly represented a “second chance” for Anthony, and that makes his Dad, now mostly recovered happy as well. Anthony also has the skills needed to succeed at the next level. He was already a polished football player coming in, and has steadily improved his game. He also admitted that the playbook looked like “Chinese” to him the first time, but he has studied hard.
La’Ron Davenport is a receiver from southern New Jersey. Even though he attended Grambling State University, things just didn’t work out for La’Ron down south. He was determined not to give up on his goal of playing football. So determined that he took two trains from South Jersey to get to the workout on Saturday. When he got off the train at the Suffern, NY station of NJ Transit, he realized he still had a distance to go. He walked the two and one half miles from the railhead to the practice field! “I’ve been doing lost of resistance training recently,” he told us “so 2-1/2 Miles walking is really nothing.” He is truly thankful for another chance to play the greatest game ever played. “I’m not trying to act like I’m all that. I just want to go out there tonight and every night and showcase what I can do.” La’Ron had a good night, catching a few slick balls in traffic during the 7-on-7 Drills.
Next we have the story of Olsen St. Louis. Olsen was a Kicker at Spring Valley High School, but then attended Hudson Community College, where there was no football program. Olsen didn’t give up either, and Saturday night during warm-ups he was hitting them with ease from 40 yards out. In a moderate rain with a slight crosswind no less. On top of that, Olsen has not kicked steadily in over four years. You couldn’t tell that by watching him prep for each kick. To say he has a cannon for a kicking leg is putting it mildly.
This last player has a bit of history that includes me as well. Jonathan Fox is a receiver from Hawley Pa. who recently graduated High School. No one thought enough of Jon to give him a look at the college level, possibly because of his size (5’10” & 160 lbs), but if they did give him a look they would know what I have known for close to a decade. You see, I met Jon when he was at the NFL Draft as a youngster many years back. At that time he was “the Youngest Expert in the History of the NFL Draft.” I know because that’s what I wrote about him in a feature piece at the time. I also predicted that an NFL team would someday hire him as a scout. While that has not become a reality yet for Jon, The CDFL is his reality. That, and a promise I made to him all those years ago to look me up when he was ready to be a football scout. I’m now happy to say that no matter what happens playing wise for Jon, I will keep my promise and help him in his scouting career.
Finally, I can’t let this piece end without an honorable mention for Willie Calhoun, a Fullback/Linebacker from Newburgh, NY. Willie showed me moves the likes of John Mackey and Howard Cross Saturday night. He broke so many tackles on his way to the end zone after the catch that I lost count at 5. A Strong Safety would have no way to match up against Willie, as he looks to be about 6’1” or 2” and about 250 or 260 pounds. I doubt anyone would want to get hit by him when he’s got a head of steam built up.
The CDFL Slogan is “Are you Ready?” well, Saturday night at the field of dreams, these players are ready.