VERONA, Miss. (WTVA) - When the Verona Outlaws practice on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, the youth football team isn't just learning about the game.
They're also learning about life.
"It's fun, you just have to listen to the coaches, be disciplined, and fly out there and have fun," said 11-year-old Austin Blanchard, who plays middle linebacker, tight end, and running back.
Bill Huddleston started the program eight years ago. He says there's no entry fee to play, and he helps pay for the costs out of his own pocket.
"I don't see professional football players out there," Huddleston said. "What I see out there are teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, and I just want to make it better than our generation when we came up.
"We're just trying to make Verona a better place through youth football, and those kids are the future of the world."
Huddleston, who's retired, says he currently has about 80 players and six volunteer coaches.
"We also want to push them in the right direction as far as education, we also want to push them in the right direction as far as behavior at home, and just teach them how to be respectful young men," said Valentino Garner, a volunteer coach. "So, a lot of that comes down to just hard work and discipline out here on the field."
Parents of the players say the program has helped keep kids off the streets.
"It's more like a family than just somewhere where they come play sports and go back home," said Nicole McGaughy, whose son plays for the team.
"It's very comforting, because you don't have that (family atmosphere) in a lot of places, so it's good that this organization is here that does that," said Crystal Davis, whose son also plays for the team.
The program has been so successful that Huddleston hopes to branch out to other sports.
"As long as you give them something to do, and what they like doing, you won't have a problem with them walking around on the street," he said. "When these kids get home, they're gonna go to bed, because they're tired now."
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