Young Yampa Valley football players will wear Walker's name

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When young football players suit up this season, they will be wearing a continuing legacy.

A legacy spanning 82 years.

A legacy that winds through Dallas; Detroit; Canton, Ohio; and Steamboat Springs.

When the players, in third through sixth grade, put on Craig Parks and Recreation's shoulder pads, they will again be carrying the name of Doak Walker.

And that's how his legacy lives on.

When Dave Pike, Parks and Recreation Director, started the youth football league in 1998, it was nameless.

And Walker had all the credentials to fill that gap.

He was a Heisman trophy winner in college at Southern Methodist University.

He won two NFL championships with the Detroit Lions.

And he was a Hall of Fame running back.

His name is attached to the award given to the best collegiate running back.

After Walker died in 1998 in Steamboat Springs, the push to rename the league in his honor entered a hurry-up offense.

Dave DeRose, former Craig mayor and Doak Walker Youth Football League coach, said the whole process was done in three phone calls.

First, DeRose and Pike called Skeeter, Walker's wife.

"We were told we couldn't use Doak's name because it was already attached to his foundation," DeRose said. "Skeeter told us to call the president of the foundation and ask him if we could use it."

After two more phone calls, it was settled.

Doak Walker's name would return to the football field.

"Skeeter told us Doak had always wanted his name attached to a football league," DeRose said. "He had sponsored hockey, soccer, alpine skiing. : He always wanted football, though."

Picking Walker wasn't just because he took up residence in Steamboat Springs, DeRose said.

"The concept was simple," DeRose said. "Doak was a good guy, who cared about people, and cared about kids. And it was just a fact that Doak was a huge influence in the Yampa Valley, and we wanted to honor that."

Having any other name affiliated with the league didn't make sense, DeRose said.

"Everyone's heard of Pop Warner football, but he only coached kids," DeRose said. "He never was what Doak was around here."

On July 27, there will be a mandatory skills day at Woodbury Sports Complex, and on Aug. 5, the youths will be divvied up among the teams and given their equipment.

"It gives kids core values, and the basic fundamentals," DeRose said. "And kids can try football out for the first time, instead of waiting until they are in the seventh grade to decide that they don't like it."

Working closely with the children was DeRose's favorite part of coaching.

"The best thing overall is that it gives the guys a chance to get to know some of the kids around town," he said. "They get a chance to be a part of their lives, and that's what counts.

"These kids can say, 'I know someone cares about me,' and they know someone's there when they may need it later in life. Football is just the fun part."

Ben Bulkeley can be reached at 875-1795 or bbulkeley@craigdailypress.com.

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