This past Saturday I had the opportunity to join the Cleveland Patriots, a semi-pro football team of the Premier Amateur Football League (PAFL) in Euclid for their family day/helmet painting/cookout. Most of what I encountered was to be expected…well used equipment being cleaned up and re-painted for the upcoming season, a large public field with the occasional tennis ball sized rock, and players in all shapes, sizes, and ages.
The league surprisingly big. I knew that semi-pro football existed, but I had no idea that there were 15 teams everywhere from Erie, PA, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and all over Ohio. The players vary from right out of high school, to former Division I athletes. From the weekend warrior family man, to those keeping the dream of being a professional alive.
The surprise however came when “The First Lady” spoke. Owner of the team since 2014, Veronica Howard had been my point of contact with the Patriots, so we had talked several times before that day. She seemed like a very nice lady, but my assumption that she was some sort of “team mom” or cheerleader couldn’t have been more wrong.
The crowd of 40-some alpha males, hot and sweaty from an impromptu football game, and loud music all came screeching to a halt when The First Lady stood up to address the group. In a way The First Lady is a team mom and a cheerleader in that she looks out for each and every one of her players like they are her own.
Today Ms. Howard had brought Stanley Brown, owner of The Appliance Repair Centers, to offer not only a potential job, but the opportunity to be taught a skill and the chance at a career in the growing business. Whether it’s job prospects, housing opportunities, childcare, clothing/food resources, emotional support, reentry support, or information on community services that she thinks her players and their families may need or want, The First Lady is there for her players. Seeing the way the players listen to Ms. Howard and respect her, it is clear that what she does is very much appreciated.
While helping conduct interviews for an upcoming documentary, I was amazed at how The First Lady’s sense of community, leadership, and poise had rubbed off on many of the players that had been with her over the last several years. Man after man emphasized the importance of setting a good example and having a safe place to go for the younger generation coming up.
As long as The First Lady is around, the Cleveland Patriots will always be winners, and the family atmosphere that she fosters follows them on the field as well as off.
For more info on the Patriots visit their Facebook page here.
For the Premier Amateur Football League check out their website here