Doak Walker football starts soon

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In the dwindling years of the 1940s, a halfback from Southern Methodist University blew through defenses in the South Western Conference on his way to a Heisman Trophy.

The halfback moved on to achieve an equal amount of success in the NFL, where he was voted an All-Pro four times in six years, and won two championships while playing for the Detroit Lions.

The halfback's name is synonymous with success, and in Moffat County, it is synominous with youth football.

The halfback is Doak Walker, who made Steamboat Springs his home until his death in 1998.

"When we started up our youth football league three years ago we asked the Doak Walker Foundation if we could use his name," Parks and Recreation Director Dave Pike said. "They wanted to know how much money we wanted, but we just wanted to use Walker's name. They were thrilled."

When the first pigskin travels down the field in September at Woodbury Park, it will mark the third year of Doak Walker youth football in Craig, a program for fifth- and sixth-grade students.

September will also mark the inaugural year of tackle football for third and fourth graders. Before this season, they were limited to playing flag football.

The two different age groups will start preparing for the season this month, with the registration deadline being Friday.

A skills day for each age group will also be held, in which players will be tested and assigned to a team. Equipment checkout will also be held.

The skills day will be Aug. 15 at Woodbury Park for the fourth- and fifth-grade players, and Aug. 16 at Woodbury Park for the third- and fourth-graders.

According to Pike, the switch from flag football to tackle football for the younger players was instituted to prevent injuries.

"When we started the youth tackle football league, we noticed that the kids were actually getting hurt less than in flag football," Pike said. "Even though the kids were participating in a non-contact league when they played flag football, the falls they were taking were not being broken by pads."

Besides the reduced risk of injury, the young football players will be drilled in the basics of the game.

"We put a strong emphasis on teaching the fundamentals of football to the little people," youth football coach Darren Wilde said. "We work at making them strong tacklers and ball handlers, so when they reach the higher levels of the game the coaches can emphasize teaching strategies, instead of fundamentals."

The Doak Walker Youth Football League sees around five teams in both age groups, though they will only be eight-man teams, according to Pike. He said that the smaller teams don't affect the game any, and same rules are used as in a regular 11-player football game.

"We've considered expanding the teams to 11 players if we get more of a turnout this season, but the change wouldn't be instated until next season," Pike said.

The Craig team will also match up against regional teams. Hayden is scheduled to travel to Craig, and some of the Craig teams are scheduled to make the trip to Steamboat Springs this season.

"This is a great program and allows the kids a great opportunity to participate," Wilde said. "Since there are only eight-man teams, more kids get to play."

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