If only their bodies were as big as their dreams, the third- and fourth-grade Doak Walker football league players might have been able to fill the pads they suited up in for the first time. But, kneepads slid down to serve as shin guards and holding their heads up in football helmets was a workout in itself.
On opening night for the league at Woodbury Park, the Broncos and Raiders faced off with a combined 11 players competing in pads and helmets for the first time.
"I felt huge like a giant when I put the pads on," said Angelo Raftopoulos, who plays for the Broncos. "It's like the big-time with all the gear."
But the feeling among players on the field was the same, football is cool.
"It is definitely more fun to play football than watch it," said first time player Mason Updike. "Getting tackled and making tackles is a lot harder than it looks on T.V."
The players all had different professional football players they hoped to emulate when on the field.
"I try to run like Terrell Davis," said Raider Kulen Nelson. "He is so fast and strong, I like him a lot."
"I want to be like Rich Gannon," said Broncos player Mark Dockstader. "He throws really accurate and is a good leader."
On the opening night Dockstader was unable to lead his team past the Raiders as the boys in black triumphed 29-19 in a back-and-forth game. But the only thing each team could talk about after the game was how "sweet" is was to be able to play football.
"Scoring touchdowns is sweet because you get to feel excitement all through your body," said Bronco Sean Southard.
"Being able to ram into people and have it not hurt is pretty cool," said Bronco Andrew Montray. "It makes you feel tough."
Being able to feel tough or just putting on the pads to act like their heroes, the little guys all said they enjoyed their first night of football.
This season is the second season for third and fourth graders to play tackle football. Doak Walker runs through Oct. with games primarily on Wednesday nights.