Fresno event brings youth together for football and mentoring

A participant runs through a drill during a football clinic at Bulldog Stadium as part of the sixth annual Big B.A.N.G. Weekend held July 13-14, 2018. Courtesy of KYJO Enterprises/Facebook

KYJO, a group home and foster family agency in Fresno, hosted the sixth annual Big B.A.N.G. Weekend to support underserved youth in the Central Valley. The weekend included a pre-game celebration at Dave and Busters on Friday, July 13 and a free football clinic at Bulldog Stadium on July 14.

The event brought together former Fresno State football players, NFL players and other community leaders, who spent time with the children to teach them about life and football.  

Elon Paige, who played football at Sacramento State, was one of the leaders at the event.

“As role models, as people that have resources and positions and status in the community, as professional athletes, as college athletes, we have to come back and we have to serve,” Paige said. “We gotta raise up the next generation to be leaders. Not everybody may have access like we do, so it’s our chance to show them there is a way. Sports is that channel to connect to other things in life. It’s about endurance, it’s about patience, it’s about faith.”

Paige said he grew up learning from the leaders who partnered with him to lead the Big B.A.N.G Weekend.

“It’s awesome to see my big brothers out here. They set the example for me,” Paige said. “A lot of these guys, I grew up watching on TV. I saw how they lived their lives and how they played the game. I took that example and applied it. I’m just giving it all back.”

Paige’s father Stephone was also among the leaders at the event. Stephone Paige played at Fresno State before moving on to his NFL career.   

“We’re talking about education, we’re talking about leadership, we’re talking about staying positive, creating leaders,” Stephone Paige said. “That’s what it’s all about. We’re investing in our future by coming out here today.”

Dante Marsh, who also played football Fresno State and in the NFL, said football is a vehicle for the other aspects of life. Marsh said he was always focused on making to the NFL when he was young, but he’s now teaching his son that it’s not just about football.

“You’re going to be a civilian longer than you’re gonna be a football player,” Marsh said. “You’re using this a vehicle to get an education, to go to college and develop as a young adult.”

Marsh added that sports bridge the gap with race relations and society issues.

“You kind of just can forget about it for a few hours and just become one,” Marsh said.  

Keith Gooch was at the event Saturday to watch his grandkids and nephews participate.

“What a magnificent thing for kids to see stars and want to be like stars,” Gooch said. “It’s a chance to talk to kids and say, ‘Hey, stay in school. Do different things, not only football.’ Guys are out here telling them about mannerisms: ‘You gotta have sportsmanship.’ It’s a great deal out here.”

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