July 29, 2014

Elyria
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H.S. Football: Oberlin teammates take trip to Browns headquarters

Alfonso Allen and nine of his Oberlin High School teammates made it to the NFL.
While the stay only lasted a few hours, Phoenix coach Dave McFarland believes it can pay dividends down the road.
“They had a wonderful time,” McFarland said. “More important, they had adult men talking to them about doing the right thing.”
Allen, a freshman, won a trip to Browns headquarters through a contest on the team Web site. At the end of last month, the group of Phoenix joined a few other groups for drills in the fieldhouse, discussions with coaches and dinner in the cafeteria. They even walked by Browns running back Jamal Lewis in the hallway.
“It gave them an extra push,” said Lester Allen, Alfonso’s dad and a defensive line coach at Oberlin. “They learned a lot of stuff we’re doing is stuff they do at the pro level. They’re the same drills.
“They imagine that, ‘Hey, I can be here. If I work hard enough, I can achieve being here.’”
Browns tight ends coach Alfredo Roberts was one of the assistants running the drills, and Lester Allen said the kids were so excited they jogged from station to station.
“I think it will really help the team this year,” said Alfonso Allen, a receiver/linebacker who said the receiving drills were his favorite.
But that was only the second-best part of the day.
“Except for the eating part,” Lester Allen said. “It was unbelievable. It was all good.
“They were treated like kings.”
McFarland appreciated the fun, but thought there was a deeper significance to the special opportunity.
“We have some issues with kids,” he said. “I just wanted them to hear (about doing the right things) from other people while going through the stations.”
Alfonso Allen said the message was simple.
“Stick with it,” he said.
That’s been a problem for Oberlin, which has struggled with overall participation and dwindling numbers through the course of the season.
McFarland has begun to turn around the Oberlin program, taking a team that had won four games in seven seasons and winning four in 2007.
The next step, he said, is getting the kids to continue their football careers in college. He’s trying to accomplish that by taking the kids on a series of one-day trips to colleges for camps, combines or just to watch practice.
“I’m trying to get kids exposure to college and what’s out there,” he said. “Show people we have college-recruitable kids.”
Ohio State, Youngstown State, Kent State, Akron, Michigan State and Division II schools in Ohio are on the itinerary.
“I want to take the kids to as many colleges as possible,” McFarland said. “I want to get the kids thinking about college. They never thought about that before.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.