June 3, 2009 — In the Virgin Islands, high school football is more than just a sport. It's a fierce battle, with local players putting it all on the line every year — rivalries, months of hard work, broken bones and the fight for more money and resources — for a shot at the championship title and all the bragging rights that come along with it.
And being the best gives opportunity a chance to knock at the front door. That time has come for five local athletes who will take the lessons they've learned on the field at home to the gridiron at the University of Minnesota, Crookston.
"I was so glad when I heard the news," said Kareem Joseph, a senior at Ivanna Eudora Kean. "Just to know that I was coming off the island and being given a chance to better myself football will take me a long way, not just in school, but in life."
Joseph said he's always wanted to be a chef, and can balance his love of cooking with his passion for football while in college.
"This is my dream, and it's finally happening," he said. "I can't wait to get up there."
The feelings were mutual for Charlotte Amalie High School seniors Noel Maccou, Timothy Tallman and Melvin Perdomo, who all hope to eventually make the transition from college to the National Football League.
"I'm so excited — at first, I wasn't able to stop smiling," Maccou said. "But then I thought about it, and the news really reached me deep. We've been given this opportunity to play college ball, to get faster, to get better and to really make it. You have to really have that love for the game, and I do. I love it. I can't wait for my first college catch."
Tallman said the lessons he's learned from his coach — whether in discipline or in faith — has made him a better person.
"I've seen a big change from how I used to be," he said. "Now I have to step it up, and just hope that I change again into an even better person."
Also joining the group at UMC is Lon Garfield, who has spent the last two years playing and getting his associates degree at Minnesota West Community and Technical College. Having lived it for the last two years, Garfield offered the others some advice on how to stay at the top of the pack in the more competitive collegiate football programs.
"When you guys go up there, don't slouch, because they'll put someone else in, give the opportunities to the guys who fight for it," he said.
The up-and-coming group of athletes recently got a taste of how UMC's Division II program works and what they can expect when they hit the field next year. Last month, 11 coaches from three different Division II teams flew to St. Thomas for a nearly weeklong football camp put together by CAHS football coach Francisco Jarvis and sponsored by FirstBank V.I., which helped pay for the coaches' airfare.
"The purpose of the camp was to get the college coaches to come down to see and reach out to the talent we have here in the Virgin Islands," Jarvis said. "About 90 percent of the coaches I talk to from the mainland don't even know we have kids playing football down here. So, it's time to bring them down. And after this group here makes them proud, maybe they'll come back and help out the juniors that also want to make it, so the cycle can continue."
Jarvis couldn't help but shed a tear when talking about the players' accomplishments.
"Each of them work so hard," he said. "For them to get to this point, as a coach, it's just really a joy for me to see. I would do it all over again. I love all of them, and they know it. I hope they make their families proud, make God proud and hope they keep working hard."
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.