One hundred plus players from 19 towns took Dalling Field in Trumbull for the St. Joseph High School Free Football Clinic hosted by former Cadet and current Pittsburgh Steeler Tyler Matakevich.
Kids from 5th to 8th grade were happy to meet Matakevich, Steeler teammate Sean Davis, and former Shelton High All-Staters Paul Piccirillo and Bobby Valeri.
Also on hand were a mix of former college stars from Temple, St. Joseph, Bunnell and Stratford, along with a handful of Cadet coaches and players.
Jason Jimenez and Henry Smith, members of the Milford Eagles Pop Warner team, were among the participants.
“Being able to come back here — where shoot I was running around younger than them — is fantastic,” said Matakevich, who in his third season with the Steelers out of Temple University will battle for a starting inside linebacker position.
“This is awesome. My St. Joe’s guys are here and a few of my buddies from out of town. It means the world to me to be back on this field.
“This is what the kids love, to be with guys like Sean Davis from the Steelers and all my Temple guys. Any way we can give back and help out the community. This is what it’s all about.”
This was no picnic for the campers, however, as they were broken into groups and swapped with different instructors to learn the basics and more about all aspects of playing football — line play, special teams, running back, wide receiver, defensive backs and quarterback.
Jimenez, age 12, plays nose guard for the Pee Wee squad and his favorite teams are the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The 10-year-old Smith is a linebacker on the Mitey Mite team and roots for the Steelers.
One of the clinicians was Mark Harrison, out of Bunnell High and Rutgers University, who saw time with the New England Patriots and Chicago Bears
“It’s about being with Tyler and these kids,” he said. “Being out here, embracing the membership of playing ball together, seeing old teammates, old friends. Being able to share our knowledge, and to have them see us having fun doing it, is what it is all about. We’re having a blast.”
Matakevich said, “Seeing how excited the kids were, how they wanted to learn and have fun, made it all worth it. Giving back is very important to me and this is something I’m definitely going to continue to do every year. I want to make things special for these kids and help out our community more and more.”