Belhaven Youth Football League gets an upgrade

Published 12:47 pm Saturday, September 26, 2015

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS A NEW LOOK: Hezekiah Mann runs down the sideline during last week’s 8U CYFL game in Belhaven.

A NEW LOOK: Hezekiah Mann runs down the sideline during last week’s 8U CYFL game in Belhaven.

BELHAVEN — Seven-year–old Hezekiah Mann swung around the Eagles defense, found a seam and burst up the sideline, a flash of electric blue and bleach white whizzing past the home crowd. Thirty yards later, Mann was eventually brought down by a Washington defender, but not before putting the inaugural scuffs in an otherwise flawless uniform.

Like most kids his age, the next play, rather than the nearest Clorox Bleach Pen, was the only thing on his mind. However, for the first time in years, the Bulldogs suited up last weekend in Clorox-worthy apparel.

Belhaven welcomed the 2015 Community Youth Football League season with a fresh set of signature blue uniforms — jerseys, pants, helmets, shoulder pads, the works — all courtesy of a Belhaven Youth Football League alumnus.

Oakland Raiders defensive end C.J. Wilson — a Belhaven native, graduate of Northside High School, former East Carolina football player and, most notably, Super Bowl Champion — purchased close to $6,000 worth of new uniforms for the 8U, 10U and 12U age groups in Belhaven.

“We’re probably the smallest league and everyone was talking about the new uniforms last week,” said Michael Proctor, the director of the BYFL. “It just makes us look better, makes our kids proud and it’s just a great thing for the community.”

For Wilson, who donated $5,000 to the Northside High School football program earlier this summer, it’s about more than simply giving back to his hometown. The gesture honors his roots, as the six-year NFL veteran got his start suiting up on the same BYFL gridiron more than 20 years ago.

“It was my foundation of teaching me how to play football,” Wilson said. “It taught me how to be a teammate and how to be held accountable, be responsible. It taught me to work hard together and when you play as a team, everyone achieves more. It’s just the basic foundation for what I’ve built today.”

In the 1990s, Wilson, alongside his brothers, got his start playing for the Buccaneers at the 8U level in Belhaven. Now, as the Bulldogs, it’s a new generation of Wilsons — nephews Famous, Ethan and Bralan — who currently benefit from everything the Community Youth Football League has to offer.

“If (youth football players) keep their faith in God, work hard and believe, they can achieve anything,” Wilson said. “You can’t do anything you don’t work hard for. You can go accomplish whatever you want to accomplish, but it is possible. If I came from Belhaven, whether its Washington or Chocowinity, anybody can make it if they work hard.”

Proctor, who is also a teacher and head men’s basketball coach at Northside, spoke highly of Wilson, a former Panther who continues to be a role model to youth in his hometown.

“(These kids) look up to C.J. and everything he’s done,” he said. “He’s definitely a role model for our kids. When he visits, he talks about acting right and behaving. He talks more than just about football because he’s such a well-rounded young man.”

All three Bulldogs age division will put on their new uniforms for the third time this season next weekend in Belhaven.