WARREN - Donning neon green tennis shoes, a sweat-drenched T-shirt and a local, well-known smile, Nick Frankos walked to the middle of the field at Warren G. Harding High School's Mollenkopf Stadium and stood in front of 190 aspiring children.
His booming voice carried over the entire field and his inspiring words resonated in the children's ears and pensive minds. His words were well-spoken and his message was clear.
"These are the tough guys right here on this field," he said. "Remember to make good choices and good decisions and always think before you hit send."
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Warren G. Harding senior Ja’Von Provitt, right, teaches a blocking technique to Kaleb Tyson, 13, of Warren during the opening day of the 20th Annual Mims-Manoa Football Camp at Mollenkopf Stadium.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Damari Freeman, 10, of Warren, reaches out and catches a pass during Monday’s camp in Warren.
Frankos has been running his Mims-Manoa Football Camp and instilling a sense for success in young minds for 20 years now. This year, the three-day camp ,open to any young football players in the area and beyond, opened Monday morning.
Twenty years ago, Frankos and his dear friend Dominic "Mims" Massary wanted to start a football camp for youths. Unfortunately, Massary died before he could see his idea come into fruition, but now Mims' initiative and legacy live on through Frankos' camp.
"He loved kids, and he loved everything about sports. He helped kids out all over the area, and that's how this first came about," Frankos said.
Massary and Frankos recruited their friend and former Cleveland Browns fullback Tim Manoa - after whom the camp is partially named - to help make their dream become a reality.
"(Mims) wanted to bring something here so that the kids would have something to do in the summertime and learn from some of the players that have made it to the pro level and have gone on to college," Manoa said. "That's why we started it, and here we are 20 years later still doing it."
Manoa has helped Frankos facilitate the camp every year since its inception in 1994. He said the camp is all about giving back to the children of the community.
"A lot of these kids come out because they enjoy doing it and for us to be here to give them that opportunity to not only learn football drills, but also learn about life, how to be successful in life," Manoa said. "Football is a little part of their world, but everything else is learning about how to be a good kid, going to school - those are all messages to use athletics as a tool to further themselves."
At the camp, Harding football coach Steve Arnold and his entire coaching staff assist Frankos in teaching the children about the game of football, and, more importantly. Of course the children get the opportunity to participate in all kinds of different drills to polish their skills before their upcoming seasons, but Frankos aims to teach the kids life lessons that extend much farther than the 100-yard boundary of a football field.
"If I can't get these kids out of Warren, Ohio, in a zipper bag or an orange jumpsuit, we're not doing our job, so I think it's important to get these kids to realize what this is really about," Frankos said. "You're not going to be Mario Manningham and make that catch in the Super Bowl if you don't get to that podium, if you don't get through college, if you don't have that stuff going for you."
Through his camp, Frankos wishes to reach out to these youths and encourage them to realize their full potential in a world that can sometimes serve as a road block negating opportunity. Frankos' goal is to serve as a positive influence on these kids' lives and lead them down the right path to success.
"These kids are going to be exposed to that (negative) stuff, but I tell them to be smart and try to stay away from it as much as possible. Here's the tough guys out here," Frankos said as he pointed to all the young football scholars of the game. "The tough guys ain't on the corner or on the streets."
If putting on a football helmet and lacing up a pair of cleats means keeping these kids out of trouble, Frankos is all for it. His passion for working with youths can be traced back to his college education.
A 1981 graduate of Harding, Frankos, 51, attended the University of Cincinnati where he played football all four years and majored in criminal justice. When his pro football career didn't pan out, he returned to his roots to run Buena Vista Cafe, which his family has owned and operated for 58 years now. On the side of his main responsibilities at the restaurant, Frankos takes advantage of the criminal justice aspect of his education and tries to work with juveniles whenever he gets the chance.
"I love working with kids, as you can see," Frankos said with a grin.
Over the years, Frankos' camp has played host to a number of guest speakers and former Harding standouts.
Monday, former Harding basketball standout and power forward Rashid Gaston, who is currently attending Norfolk State University in Virginia to play basketball, came home for the summer and decided to help Frankos' camp this year.
"I like working with the kids and giving back because it's something I wish people would have did a lot more of with me," Gaston said. "I want to see everyone do well and succeed."