SIKESTON - The Sikeston Little League football season is well under way this year as teams have already have two games under their belts. Sponsored by the Sikeston Jaycees, the league has been in operation since 1974.
After 31 years of operation, this league has molded boys into men and has made grown men appreciate giving back to their family, friends and community.
To mention the football little league, the first name that should cross a person lips is that of Floyd Williams. Williams moved to Sikeston in 1974 from Scottsboro, Ala. Having a son, Vince, who had played in Alabama, Floyd wanted the same opportunity for Vince and other boys throughout the community.
Not knowing who to turn to or what to do, Floyd spoke with Clem Beal, then president of the Bank of Sikeston. Beal was so impressed with Floyd's determination to start a league, Beal set up a meeting with the Sikeston Jaycees. Needless to say, the Jaycees were impressed with idea and appointed Rob Mitchell and Charles Blumenbert to organize the league.
Of the meeting with Floyd Williams, Mitchell remembers a man with great passion that day.
"He just came in and brought the rules forward and he had the full support of the Jaycees," said Mitchell. "Floyd Williams deserves all the credit for the Sikeston Little League and his passion and determination was what impressed the Jaycees."
The league started in 1974 with co-commissioners Mitchell and Blumenbert. According to Mitchell, the goal of the league was that everyone played and had a good time. At the outset of the league, four sponsors came forward to donate $1,000 for equipment and uniforms. Those sponsors were the names of the first teams in 1974. Jaycees, National Lock, Bank of Sikeston and Daily Standard were the team names.
The football league in Sikeston would develop into an institution that every kid age 11-14 wanted to participate. At the start of the league the emphasis was on development and teaching.
"We did not have any all-star teams," said Mitchell. "Everyone played and players were rated on skill level so that players would play against their own level of competition. Everyone who played in the league got accident insurance. If a kid could not afford the insurance, the Jaycees would pay."
According to Mitchell, each team practiced twice a week for two hours each practice. Teams played six games. Sikeston High School coaches were invited to give information regarding plays and formations.
The football league had year-end banquets in which every player was mentioned for participation. Every game was televised on SPS-TV.
Moving forward to 2005, there are approximately 80 players in today's league. The rules for the game are not so different from the ones in 1974. To play, a child must be at least 11-years-old and no older than 14 by August 4th of their birth year.
There is no weight limit but if one carries the football, be it a quarterback, fullback or tailback must weigh 120 pounds or less. If one catches a forward pass they must weigh under 140 pounds.
Four teams make up the league today with no sponsors besides the Jaycees. The Bears wear black jerseys and are coached by Deke Lape. The Packers wear green jerseys and are coached by Rick LaPlant. Darrell Weems coaches the Chiefs, and they wear red jerseys. The Rams, who are coached by Matt Johnson, wear blue jerseys.
After two weeks of play, the Rams and the Bears are 2-0. In Week 1, the Bears defeated the Chiefs 21-0. The Rams squeezed by the Packers 12-6.
In Week 2, the Rams defeated the Chiefs 25-12 and the Bears bested the Packers 28-6.
While rules remain the same in Sikeston's little league football program, what has changed is the turnout by the local youth. Today the league has approximately 80 players, back in its infancy, the league boasted participation of 120 young boys.
Playing football is not for everyone. It can be a rough sport. But football can teach more than just "X's" and "O's."
It teaches responsibility, teamwork, work ethic and dedication. The team is more important than the individual.
Floyd Williams understood about responsibility and a strong work ethic. His dedication to his family did not end at little league football. According to his son, Vince, his father was and is still a big part of his life.
"I played high school football and dad was at every game," said Vince Williams. "My dad has always been there for me and he did something great for this town in starting that league. He wanted me to play somewhere. That is something special."
Little league football is in full swing. The games are played at the Sikeston Complex. Get out there and support the players and coaches. This league is something special and deserves to be held in that light. Sometimes it just takes the love of a father for a son to make great things happen.
It is not just football, it runs deeper than sports. It is a connection fathers and sons understand. A crisp, fall day and everything seems right with the world. Dedication and love, that is all you need. Just ask Vince Williams about football and you are intrigued. Ask him about his father and you understand.
"He is not only the greatest man in my life but he is also my best friend," said Williams.