By Jay Young
The NFL has been under significant pressure recently to do more in helping prevent head injuries to football players at all levels.
Judging from the experience of players, coaches and administrators from the Jamestown Area Midget Football League, professional football has been taking the task seriously.
"They are putting their money where their mouth is as far as (safety) goes," said JAMFL commissioner Branden Maggio.
As part of the implementation of the Heads Up Football program, which was created to improve player safety and technique, the Buffalo Bills have been working with the Western New York Football Alliance to reward youth teams that stress safety.
"I received some emails from Preston Teague, director of Community Relations in Youth Football for the Bills," said Maggio.
The first emails that Maggio received said that the Bills were going to offer prizes to midget football teams that got at least half of their coaches certified through Heads Up.
The certification would be the Bills' initiative to make sure that midget football coaches were getting the training that they need to improve the game for players early on in their careers.
In order to be approved by the program, coaches have to go through a variety of online courses, which teach new methods of tackling, treating injury and training.
"When he wanted the numbers at that time, we had two teams in our league that were already 100 percent certified, and what he ended up doing was sending me an email saying how much he appreciated it," Maggio recalled.
In fact, Teague and the Bills appreciated the effort so much that they offered to include the JAMFL West Side Varsity team in a pre-game ceremony before Buffalo takes on Tampa Bay at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
See HEADS UP, Page B2
From Page B1
Originally, the Bills were going to provide tickets to teams that had 50 percent of their coaches certified, but West Side's full involvement in the Heads Up program warranted something a little extra.
"Basically what they are going to do is meet at the field and go out with the players and be announced and stand next to them during the national anthem,'' Maggio said. ''And then they provided that one team with 100 tickets so some of their family members could go to the game also.''
With the help of some local businesses, West Side Varsity has even rented a charter bus for the ride to Orchard Park on Saturday.
But the West Side team won't be the only Jamestown natives making their way to ''The Ralph'' for the game.
"The Bills also provided the entire league with 450 tickets," Maggio noted.
For Maggio and members of the JAMFL, the Heads Up program has been a huge help in teaching player development.
"By the time my kids reach college age, all the kids are going to be (playing) it this way," he said of the experience.
In addition to helping his coaches and players learn to play the game safely, Maggio has also been working to get players high school experience at the midget level.
Starting this season, midget teams in the JAMFL will use all high-school rules, excluding kickoffs and extra points, allowing them to run more of the spread offenses that are common at higher levels.
"I have been in contact with (Jamestown varsity coach) Tom Langworthy and he has helped us facilitate moving our modified kids into the spread high school rules for our older kids this year. We are trying to work directly with the high school program. That is the goal."
Between getting a chance to step on the field with the Bills this Saturday, and getting to work with the Red Raiders, it seems like midget players in Jamestown should have quite the start to their careers.