Many put skills on display at JFL Combine

Kalvin Wells, front, prepares to throw a football during the passing drills at the JFL combine Wednesday, while other participants look on. 

Following a break last year, the Junior Flag Football League in McComb took its first step towards its sophomore season Wednesday evening with its annual combine.

The event held at the McComb Recreation Department’s football field allowed dozens of participants the chance to show their skills.

The children competed in three drills: the 40-yard dash, passing and catching.

And while the participants were thrilled to get the opportunity to compete, league president Marcus Gatlin was happy to get things up and running again after taking the 2020 season off due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s time to have fun again,” he said. “We have been cooped up in the house for a minute. Last year we had to cancel due to coronavirus, but now we got the chance to open everything back up. I’m excited, the kids are excited, we have twice as many kids as we had last time. I am super excited about that.”

The league provides children ages 6-12 the opportunity to compete in football games with their peers, providing a safer alternative to normal tackle football which also requires wearing pads and a helmet.

After watching the children flash their skills on the field, Gatlin walked away from the event not only excited but convinced that the level of play that the kids displayed was something that was two years in the making.

“I think that it is just pent-up energy and there is about to be a combustion,” he said. “These kids out here, they got a chance to do the drills out here and every kid that I talked to, was super excited.

“Even though it was time to leave, I saw kids that didn’t want to leave and that is a good thing. When you have kids not wanting to leave and wanting to stay around, then that is a good thing for me. I am proud of what we are doing.”

Similar to the children and Gatlin, the parents in attendance Wednesday walked away feeling overjoyed.

“I’m excited about this season because of COVID and the kids were sitting around without anything to do,” said Latondra Wells, whose children Marquail and Markese participated in the inaugural season in 2019. “My boys won the championship last year so I’m looking forward to seeing that again.”

Marquail said that it feels good to be back out adding that he just wants he and his brother to succeed.

Another participant who was happy to return to play Wednesday was Lee Brown.

“I’m happy to play again and I am happy to play with my friend, who is on the same team,” he said.

Lee’s Dad, Jamie, is also thrilled to return. He will be one of the coaches this season, picking up where he left off two years ago.

He adds that the JFL is the first sport Lee has participated in since the pandemic.

“We had a down year and we didn’t get to play any other sport,” he said.

Jamie added that getting the chance to coach kids once again is very rewarding.

“It is great, I coached high school football for nine years at McComb and it is great to get back out here and see the younger generation,” he said. “I am out here coaching guys whose fathers I coached while at McComb.”

The Junior Flag Football League kicks off on July 6 and wrap on Aug. 3.

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