By Andrew Firestone
Hut! Hut! Hike! Children of all ages flanked the field at Dilboy Stadium and trained in the summer sun this week, when Detroit Lions Offensive Tackle and ‘Villen through and through Gosder Cherilus held a free training camp for children aged 7-14. Sponsored by the Gosder Cherilus Foundation with help from the Somerville Recreation Department, the week-long camp, held from 9 till noon, helped kids with their agility, catching, hitting and teamwork.
“That’s what it’s all about,” said Cherilus who guided the assorted youngsters for four of the five days. “I used to play here and look in the stands and see my friends and family. Now you come back, and you’re helping out, giving back to the city, the kids, just to let them know ‘hey, I used to be here.’ The same field we’re all practicing at. That was me. So if I can be where I’m at today, so can you.”
Cherilus called upon his old friends from BC football to help lead the camp, which culminated every day in a camp wide flag football game. Each day, the game grew longer, as kids grew in skill and competitive spirit. Cries of “ball, ball!” filled Dilboy stadium as kids rushed to recover from tackling drills. While the first catch was not always caught in passing drills, the second one would have a hand on it, and the third two, as skills and fun increased.
Cherilus said that the point of the camp wasn’t to scout early for the NFL, but to guide kids through values like responsibility and commitment. “If they go, and understand what it takes to be successful in life, as far as like, you come here, you listen. You go home, you listen to your parents. You do what they ask you to do. They’re doing what’s best for you. You go to school, get the best grades and after that go to college, get a life,” he said.
“Be your own person. That’s enough for me. Right now it’s hot and they’re doing this,” he said. And still, the vast majority of the several dozen children stayed through the sweltering 90 degree heat Wednesday, July 14, and kept at their goals.
The Gosder Cherilus Foundation helps serve underprivileged populations in the U.S. And Haiti. Cherilus’s philanthropy includes helping to encourage football with inner-city youth and sending medical relief to his native Haiti, said president of the foundation Wainwright Wint.
Cherilus’s team, the Lions, met the New England Patriots for a Thanksgiving showdown that went the distance, but ultimately fell 24-14 to the playoff-bound Pats. “We had a chance, we played them tough, but when it came down to it, they beat us,” he said.
“We’re still young, up and coming, so I think our future’s bright. We’re just going to keep playing and do what we’re supposed to do and the next time that people talk about the elite teams in the league as far as the Patriots and the Colts, I hope that before I leave there, they can say the Detroit Lions,” he said.
Standing in Dilboy Stadium, despite being in the midst of the NFL lockout and being a former first-round draft-pick and starting player, Cherilus was humble. “I’m no Tom Brady, no nothing,” he said. “I’m just one of them,” he added pointing to the smiling children.