Gridiron ready for Craig youth

Doak Walker league begins eighth season on Aug. 9

On Aug. 9, the Sports Complex will be filled with players donning football pads and helmets as the Doak Walker tackle football league begins play.

More than 100 youths, ranging from third- to sixth-graders, register in the league, which began in 1999 and is named after the famous grid hero with local ties. Four to five teams in each grade level participate in the league.

"We used to have a flag football program," said Dave Pike, Craig's Parks and Recreation director. "We had always wanted to have tackle football, but it took awhile to get the funding, and once we did, it was great."

When the flag football program expanded to the tackle, Pike and others involved with the league wanted to give it a name with local recognition. They immediately knew whom to choose.

"Walker was a longtime Steamboat Springs resident," Craig resident Dave DeRose said.

Doak Walker, a Heisman Trophy-winning running back at Southern Methodist University, played five seasons for the NFL's Detroit Lions, setting numerous scoring records along the way. In 1986, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. He died in 1998 after complications from a skiing accident.

DeRose, a long-time coach in the league recalled when organizers first approached Walker's wife a year after the football star passed away.

DeRose said that Doak and his wife, Skeeter, had given generously to youth athletics. When organizers touched base with her, she was happy to lend Doak's name to the football league, citing that it had always been Doak's dream to have a league named after him, DeRose said.

"You always heard about 'Pop Werner' football," DeRose said. "But, I think Doak was a better athlete."

Typically, the league is full of boys, but it is open to girls who want to play.

"We've had one or two girls in the past," Pike said. "But usually it's all boys."

Along with Craig's players, Hayden usually has one or two teams entered in the league, and this year is no exception.

According to DeRose, the league gives the participants a chance to decide whether football is for them.

"I've talked to the middle school coaches before, and what this league does, is give a chance for kids to find out if they like football or not at a young enough age, to decide if they want to continue on," DeRose said. "Those who do decide to go out for football in middle school love it."

"It's been a real joy for me to coach as long as I have," DeRose said. "I think it teaches the players moral values, and a good work ethic for later on in life."

DeRose, who is not coaching this year, has experienced first hand the positive effects sports can have on a child.

"I've coached a lot of kids, and to see them grow and be involved in their life has been great," DeRose said.

Melanie McDaniels can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 211, or mmcdaniels@craigdailypress.com.

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