By Daniel Silliman
The Clayton County Police Department and the Parks and Recreation Department received an overwhelming response to the first, local NFL Punt, Pass & Kick competition.
Though there were only spaces for about 100 kids, officially, more than 200 showed up at Tara Stadium on Saturday to learn the fundamentals of football.
"The turnout was awesome," said Police Capt. Greg Dickens, who led efforts to organize the event. "It was hot, but the kids toughed it out. They did great."
Police officers and parks and recreation coaches worked with the county's would-be football punters, kickers and passers, volunteering their time to make the event free. There was a clinic and a competition. The 24 boys and three girls, who performed best in their brackets, will be invited back on Aug. 31, to compete against the best punters, passers and kickers of the county. Those who win on Aug. 31, will move on to the NFL-sponsored state competition.
The county-employed volunteers were joined in the event by some special volunteers:
· Tanya Butler, Riverdale High School graduate, the first female kicker for the Riverdale Raiders and First Team All-Southern Crescent Place Kicker.
· Harry Douglas, a Jonesboro High School graduate and a rookie with the Atlanta Falcons.
· Mike Bryson, a punter at Clark-Atlanta University and at Alabama State University, and now an officer at the Clayton County Police Department.
· Tony Butler, a Riverdale High School graduate and a former linebacker for the Raiders, and Georgia Southern University.
Chief Jeff Turner said the biggest support came from the parents, however.
"It couldn't have been successful without the parents coming out to participate," Turner said. "It was very encouraging. It was great to see so many kids out there ... This is something that is good for the community."
According to police officials, creating strong relationships between law enforcement officers and kids reduces crime, and helps keep children out of trouble. Athletic events, police say, can teach children the sort of ethics valued in society.
The department is planning to hold two more NFL Punt, Pass & Kick events this summer, but they have not yet been scheduled.
Dickens said the department has "received a lot of phone calls looking for the next event and speaking about appreciation for this one."
For more information about the event or to pre-register, call (770) 473-3985.