A vision come true
LIBERTY – Second-year Liberty football coach Kevin Cylar had a vision: to gather together an elite group of former local football standouts who played in college and the NFL and conduct a football camp to teach kids about the sport.
His vision became a reality Thursday afternoon as the first annual Liberty Local Legends Football Camp was held at Liberty High School.
“These guys are local guys and they’re legends in my mind, so instead of getting the old-schoolers, I wanted to bring out some of these young kids that just finished college, just breaking in the field and give them some positive publicity and let my kids hear their message and how they got through the pitfalls,” Cylar said.
Cylar said the two-day camp was cost-efficient and open to all children in the Mahoning Valley. A total of 61 kids attended the camp on the first day, and Cylar said some of the children have already made commitments to attend the second day.
“(The children will learn) how to do things together, how to stay positive, how to prioritize their time so they can get their grades together and make sure that school work’s first, and how to show respect to their peers and older adults,” Cylar said.
Cylar was an assistant football coach for Ursuline for seven years until landing a head coaching gig at Liberty last June. His time with the Irish helped him land a few former players such as recent Youngstown State University graduate Dale Peterman, tabbed YSU’s Defensive player of the Year this past 2013-2014 season, and Cylar’s own son, Kevin Cylar, Jr., a redshirt freshman cornerback attending Youngstown State University.
Former Ursuline high school standout Jamel Turner volunteered to help Cylar at the camp.
“Coach Kev’s the common denominator for all of us,” Turner said. “Working with kids is kind of what I want to do with my life. If God calls me in that direction, it would be lovely because I love working with the kids.”
Turner was once regarded as one of the top high school prospects in Ohio and the entire country, eventually deciding on becoming an Ohio State Buckeye out of high school. Now a junior in college, the 22-year-old Turner plays for Akron after dealing with some off-the-field issues that derailed his collegiate career.
Turner said he learned from his mistakes and now shares his words of wisdom to children to give back to the community.
“I would definitely tell kids the most important thing is just watch who you surround yourself with, your inner circle and your crowd,” Turner said.
To go along with the guys who went to the collegiate level, some former and current NFL players were on board for the camp, despite their busy schedules.
Cardinal Mooney alumnus and current Carolina Panthers fullback Michael Zordich came home to serve as a guest speaker for the camp. Zordich commended Cylar’s efforts as well as the efforts of other local football coaches for launching camps all over Mahoning and Trumbull counties.
“This is a football-rich area, and there’s a lot of talent that comes out of this Youngstown region,” Zordich said. “It’s good to see that there’s adults and coaches that recognize that and do everything they can to fill these camps. They come out and coach and do all this for the kids to give them an opportunity to learn, get better and just to understand what they have to do to (succeed).”
Probably the biggest name there was former Ohio State running back Dan “Boom” Herron. A 2007 graduate of Warren G. Harding High School and now an Indianapolis Colt, Herron was back in the area for a few days, and when Cylar gave him a call and invited him to the camp, Herron said he would be glad to help.
“Anytime I can come out and support friends and family, especially in the area, who helped me get to where I am today, I definitely try to do that,” Herron said. “It’s all a part of giving back.”
Herron’s old teammate, Sidney Glover, also returned to his roots for the camp. Glover said it felt good to step on a football field again, something he hasn’t done much in the past couple of years.
Glover is a fifth-grade special education teacher at Lincoln PK-8 School in Warren. Glover played football for the University of West Virginia and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in business, but his professional football career never panned out. He had a shot with the Buffalo Bills in 2011, but it proved short-lived. Following failed attempts to make it in the UFL and the Canadian Football League, Glover stepped back to the drawing board.
“When football was done for me, I stepped back, reevaluated my life, went to get my Masters and dedicated more time to my own family,” Glover said.
With a master’s degree in special education, Glover acquired his teaching position at Lincoln. He also started his own business in March called Teaching eXcellence, a residential and respite care services business that enhances the quality of life of individuals with disabilities.
In the midst two jobs and raising a family, Glover still devotes time to football camps like Cylar’s.
“It means a lot to me that guys like Boom and Sidney would take the time out of their busy schedules to come down here and support me,” Cylar said. “These kids get to see the people they see on TV and hear about, but they actually get to touch them and see them, and the guys that have made it haven’t forgotten where they came from. They’re still giving back, so that’s important.”