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Mighty Orphans & Awesome Zombies - Youth Football Hits Hollywood!

FIELD NOTES / December 7, 2019

From the amazing true of a rising-star young coach who gave it all up to go and coach-up a rag-tag group of orphans from a Dust Bowl era group-home into a legendary powerhouse that dominated Texas youth football in the 1930a and 40s, to a Disney Channel hit musical featuring rehabilitated, team conscious, and awesomely talented “Zombie” high school football players, “Pop Warner Super Bowl 63” week salutes the progress of two new movie productions that are already causing buzz in Pop Warner circles, in Hollywood, and all around the country.

MIGHTY ORPHANS RULE! Having just completed principal photography outside Ft. Worth, Texas, “12 Mighty Orphans”, the true saga of Coach Harvey Nual “Rusty” Russell, originator of football’s “Spread Offense” and his tough, never-say-die, rag-tag team of players with mismatched uniforms from the Masonic Home for Orphans in Waco TX is simply amazing.

Based of Texas’s best-selling journalist Jim Dent’s terrific book of the same name, ’12 MIGHTY ORPHANS” follows the trials, tribulations and triumphs of a group of hard-luck kids and a coach who believed that, together, they could meet any challenge that football and life threw at them, is one of the great David vs. Goliath stories of the modern era.

Featuring an all-star cast that includes Luke Wilson (as Rusty Russell), Martin Sheen, Robert Duval, and an instant-audience-appeal group of young actors sure to be a box office draw, this “football & life” film looks to be an odds-on winner! Set for release on Thanksgiving weekend 2020, “12 Mighty Orphans “ and its timeless story will serve to mirror what Joe Tomlin and Coach “Pop” Warner were creating at the same time (1929-1940), 1,500 miles away in North Philadelphia. Philadelphia.

ZOMBIES DANCE! Bringing it all close to home this week, cameras, crew and a supporting cast for ZOMBIES II, the next installment of the hit Disney Channel musical, will be filming a segment right here at ESPN Wide World of Sports between Pop Warner championship games on Friday afternoon. The uniquely appealing ZOMBIES I, released last year, already has a huge following among Pop Warner fans.

Based on the book Zombies & Cheerleaders by David Light and Joseph Raso, and staring Milo Manheim and Meg Donnelly, playing zombie football player Zed and human cheerleader Addison who meet and fall in love, ZOMBIES follows the pair as they work against the odds, leading their respective groups to coexist with each other. While ZOMBIES I focused on the Cheer portion of the story, ZOMBIES II is rumored to now focus on the combined football fortunes of the same cast.

And, here’s the thing, on Friday afternoon the stands at Field 17 on the ESPN Wide World of sports Complex will be filled with fans participating along with a supporting cast , and even a marching band, to shoot a segment of ZOMBIES II (with the completed film also set for release in 2020).

Yep, Pop Warner has inspired Hollywood interest anew in youth football and both the inspirational, and downright fun, aspects of this great game ; with many of its opportunities for teamwork lessons and personal growth born in a time of uncertainty and need for so many Americans.

So, come on out and be part of the fun, the dream, and the continuing legacy of youth football coached and played the right way all week at Pop Warner Super Bowl 63!

MILEPOSTS AND MAGIC: The Pop Warner Legacy Rolls On!

FIELD NOTES / December 7, 2019

Hi Folks! Bob Field here again welcoming you to another great week of coverage from the Pop Warner Super Bowl. Would you believe it’s Pop Warner Super Bowl # 63? Wow!

You know, going into this “Super 63” week, I’ve been thinking about how 2019 marks not only mileposts in Pop Warner history, but also the alliance between Pop Warner, Disney and ESPN that continues to generate magical moments galore for tens of thousands of kids and families, not only across the country, but also across much of the world.

Where did it all begin? Well, Milepost # 1 takes us back to the year “1929” and a time of uncertainty and tribulation the like of which 20th America had not seen. Good ideas for some that grow to become the fulfillment of dreams for many often begin in times of need. And, 1929 was just such a time. That was the year that Joe Tomlin, a businessman from Northeast Philadelphia, came up with a really “good idea”.

Less than a month after the stock market crash that plunged America into the Great Depression and a decade known as the “Dirty 30’s”, Joe T. wanted to create an opportunity for teens around the city that would afford them the opportunity to play a sport they loved while still staying in school, staying out of trouble, and preparing themselves for a solid future.

That idea took form as the Philadelphia Youth Football League, and it caught on right away. The combination of football and scholastics met not only a need in times of uncertainty, but it started a dream for young men of taking charge of their lives during tough times.

Soon, Temple University’s famed football coach Glenn Scobey “Pop” Warner, an innovator himself, embraced Tomlin’s program, gave of his time and mentorship free of charge to the league, and the name we know today became firmly affixed to the organization as “Pop Warner Football”.

While WWII interrupted the growth of Pop Warner Football, by the 1946, Tomlin’s “good idea” burst onto the scene again; this time with appeal and opportunities for even younger players. Local and soon after that regional Pop Warner Little Scholars programs grew rapidly through the 1950s. Then, came the “Magic”, with a capital “M”. America’s master storyteller, Mr. Walt Disney, loved the fun and the message of Pop Warner Football. In 1959, he sponsored the first Disneyland Bowl for Pop Warner.

Shortly thereafter, Disney produced the popular film starring Kevin Corcoran entitled MOOCHIE OF POP WARNER.

Here’s a fun and action-packed moment from that now classic film:

As Pop Warner Football continued to grow, along with Pop Warner Cheer and later Dance, the close ties with Disney and then ESPN grew as well.

And, now…”2019” marks the 25th annual pilgrimage of Pop Warner teams, squads and families from all over North America, Mexico, Central America and often Europe to THE place where “dreams come true”, Disney World and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

Yep, funny how “good ideas” that help to meet the needs of some, can become GREAT ideas that fulfill the “dreams” of many. Hats off to the legacy of Joe Tomlin, Glenn Scobey “Pop” Warner, and the thousands and thousands of volunteers, coaches, teachers, and kids that continue to make Pop Warner the gold standard of youth sports and learning.

And a special thanks to the “magical” legacy of Walt Disney who taught us all, including Pop Warner families, that “When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true!”

The Bus Driver Leads The Way For Pop Warner

Milton Steelers Varsity Coach Tim Lester is a guy who knows, front and center, the value of commitment to team. For years, Tim Lester and Jerome Bettis were a powerhouse tandem in the vaunted ground attack of the Pittsburgh Steelers While Jerome “The Bus“ Bettis rumbled to an NFL Hall of Fame career, it was hard-nosed blocking back Tim “The Bus Driver” Lester who led the way.

Today, the Pop Warner D-1 Milton Steelers Varsity players and coaches are the recipients of Coach Tim Lester’s commitment to team, on and off the field. Although one of the smaller programs in Atlanta, Georgia area. Pop Warner’s Milton Steelers know that they’re getting plenty of BIG time wisdom, insights, and life enriching perspectives from Tim Lester.

Coach Tim practices what he preaches, for as he sees it,” Coaches are expected to lead by example in both words and actions, on and off the football field. And, in order for players to be successful in all aspects of life, coaches need to help them find a good balance. We need to teach through example; be competitive but fair, aggressive but respectful, and tough but compassionate.”

Fairness, respect and compassion are at the foundation of the “balance in life” that Tim Lester is now imparting to his Milton Steelers in projects off the field, as well as on. Ironically, where “The Bus Driver” once specialized in making holes for Jerome Bettis to run through, he now specializes in filling holes in the lives of people who face tough challenges everyday.

Twenty years ago, Tim “The Bus Driver” Lester was awarded the NFL’s “Unsung Hero” for his community service to youth. Since then, he has helped over five hundred under-privileged youths with football camps, back-to-school events, and programs to help feed the needy during Thanksgiving.

And, this year, Coach Tim has his players and coaches working with the “Helping Hand Project” reaching out to young people thousands of miles away. The Helping Hand Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating prosthetic devices for children in need. Through “Helping Hand,” the Milford Steelers are assembling working prosthetics for kids in Third World countries who were either born without a hand, or have suffered a severe injury.

“Most of us take our hands for granted”, says Coach Tim.” But, when you need them to complete daily tasks like gripping, lifting and moving objects, a prosthetic hand for someone who is missing one, can help to improve their daily lives greatly and give them newfound confidence.”

Teaching Pop Warner scholar/athletes the value of “team commitment” to making communities stronger continues to be a major goal for Tim Lester.

Through involvement with the “Toys for Tots” program to help provide toys to over 5,000 kids living in public housing and visiting schools around the country, especially those for at-risk kids, speaking on the value of an education, Tim continues to lead by example.

Yes, for Milford, GA and all of Pop Warner, Tim “The Bus Driver” Lester, continues to lead the way on a journey of growth for better living and “team commitment” far and wide.

And, if you’d like to know more about the Helping Hands Project, and some of the amazing work done by this amazing organization, check out this CBS News story.

And, here’s are links to their websites:

Pop Warner NFL Mascot Game

2018 Pop Warner Super Bowl Blog

Navy Strong For Pop Warner”

When Terry Clark - Commissioner of Southeast Virginia Pop Warner told me about a super guy down here this week who exemplifies service to us all on the sea, on the land and on the gridiron, I was intrigued. Then, when I met that super guy I was even more intrigued.

He’s Kenneth Strong, a member of the outstanding teams of officials who keep every one of our Pop Warner football games rolling long in good order. Not only is Ken Strong from Virginia Beach a top Pop Warner Football official, he is also LCPO Kenneth Strong serving his 21st year of active duty with the United States Navy.

As a LCPO (that’s “Leading Chief Petty Officer” in Navy lingo) Kenneth Strong is the "go-to person" for his division team …in this case Assault Craft Unit TWO stationed at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, VA.

ACU-2's force consists of Landing Craft Utility boats (LCU), Landing Craft Mechanized Mark 8 boats (LCM) and Maritime Prepositioning Force Utility Boats (MPFUB). 

Yet, with all that leadership responsibility, LCPO Kenneth Strong still finds time to devote time and expertise to yet another great team…the Pop Warner players and coaches in Southeastern Virginia Pop Warner Conference.

For five years, Ken Strong has referee’ed Pop Warner Football games in Norfolk , Portsmouth, Virginia Beach and Churchland, and he absolutely loves it.

“The thing I like most about Pop Warner,” says Ken, “is the family atmosphere. And, Pop Warner Football, Cheer and Dance is truly a family. Every practice, every game, every activity gives kids a chance to learn, and put into practice, the importance of teamwork and personal commitment.”

Judging by the smile that lights up his face every time Ken talks about the Pop Warner family experience, you can tell that Kenneth Strong is a guy who sees the true value of service to friends and community mirrored in the lessons young people learn through participation in the best youth sport organization in America.

Thanks to Navy LCPO Kenneth Strong for his service to America and his commitment to Southeastern Virginia Conference. It’s definitely Navy Strong for Pop Warner!

Welcome To Pop Warner Super Bowl - 2018

62”- What’s New?

In a word…”PLENTY!” The 62nd Pop Warner Super Bowl, the 22nd annual at fabulous ESPN Wide World of Sports, kicked off Saturday in fine form with the traditional Mitey Mite Bowl and plenty of spirited Mitey Mite Cheer and Dance at the HP Field House. Yet, with plenty of new, first-time-ever squads in attendance, “62”served notice, from the opening whistle, that we’d be in for plenty of new excitement, thrills, and fun all week long.

A big part of that fun took place last evening in ESPN Wide World of Sports complex’s brand new center of excitement…The Arena - a 300,000 square foot, 8,000 seat venue and loads and loads of practice , performance and competition spaces for cheerleading, dance, basketball and more. The Arena presents Pop Warner with all sorts of all-weather opportunities for practice, performance and celebration for years to come.

And , Saturday evening, Mitey Mites Bowl teams and squads, coaches, families and friends had a whale of a celebration-party hosted in The Arena. Talk about thrills! The Mitey Mites had loads of fun with Minnie, Mickey, Goofy, a super D.J., plus games, music, dancing, food…and lots and lots of room to do their thing!

Today, as dawn spread across the ESPN Complex, a whole new chapter in Pop Warner lore was set to begin. Warm trade winds, billowing clouds, and clear skies seemed to harken the days of Florida yore when adventure, discovery and the hunt for treasure was a constant. And, today Pop Warner D-2 teams, including the vaunted North Philly Aztec “Swagboyz” , set sail across the green fields of ESPN Wide World of Sports in search of another sort of treasure…a Pop Warner National Championship.

With those bright new blue seats in the spectator galleries at Field 17 mirroring the blue skies above, and many games being available for all to see in live streaming through our website, what’s new for “62” gave notice of a week of special competition, brand new friendships, good connections and loads of good Pop Warner memories that’ll be treasured for a lifetime!

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