Concerned father starts football workouts in Knightdale park to keep youth out of trouble

Joe Mazur Image
Monday, June 29, 2020
Concerned father starts football workouts in Knightdale park to keep youth out of trouble
Most youth sports leagues are on hold right now, but one local parent, sparked a movement to keep kids in shape and out of trouble while they're waiting to get back in the game.

KNIGHTDALE, N.C. (WTVD) -- What started as a way to keep his kid out of trouble, has morphed into the closest thing to organized youth football going right now. Dozens are showing up to what's being called Shutdown Sundays in Knightdale.

With everything canceled and little to do, teenager Kendrick Blanton started nosing in the wrong direction.

"Got in trouble for doing something ridiculous. I felt like I failed as a parent." Jay Blanton intervened.

To help fill the void, Jay decided he would supervise a workout at Knightdale Station Park. His son's social media was initially used to get the word out.

"That Sunday we started with 17 players. The Sunday after that 65 players."

The numbers keep climbing. Entire teams are coming out and upwards of two hundred youngsters from all over the Triangle.

"We actually had some inquiries from Charlotte which is pretty crazy for me. I own three business and I probably do more work for this than I do for my businesses."

Family and friends have stepped in to help. One of those being childhood pal Brandon Banks. A former Washington Redskins spark-plug, he's now waiting to rejoin his Canadian Football League team in Ontario.

"Obviously I've been working out trying to stay in shape for my season. I've been working out with a lot of kids but I've been working out with kids in different areas."

Coming off a couple of surgeries, Banks was already working out with kids to get back in shape when the two collaborated efforts.

"I was going through rehab and then they shut the rehab down due to the pandemic so obviously they're keeping me active. I just want to be able to help them with the outlets that I have and be able to give them my knowledge of the game and want them to grow as athletes."

The community is fully on board. Water donations have poured in and local business owners are offering help. Jay not only sees this as a way to better skills but offers an emotional distraction.

"This isn't just a black thing. It's any color. I want everybody to come out here whether they are white, blue, black, it doesn't matter and learn to play with each other without knowing a race."

As for Kendrick, there's less time for trouble.

"He gets messages also from kids and everybody 'oh, when's the next 7 on 7 going to be what's this going to be or what team are you going to play for'. So he's busy also now. He's like a little junior vice president."

Jay is hoping that scouts eventually take notice and that the kids get coached up enough to earn college scholarships.