By Dan Gudino
East Los Angeles College football and the Los Angeles Police Department’s football team, the Centurions have paired up to host three games this spring at Weingart Stadium. The contributions from the game will go to the Blind Children’s Center as part of the National Public Safety Football League.
During spring, football is non-contact, practices usually consists of weight training and footwork drills. It’s a classroom setting for playbook and film study. It’s not helmet to helmet banging, nor do bodies pile up after a play.
Weingart Stadium doesn’t typically see a full contact game until August, when East Los Angeles College host a scrimmage game.
But this spring, full contact games are being played at ELAC and it’s not the Huskies. The Centurions are the official team of the LAPD who are a charitable organization consisting of several police departments, who play with a propose for the NPSFL.
Proceeds collected from all Centurion games go to the BCC.
On Saturday at Weingart Stadium after a 28-14, Centurion victory over the Chicago Police Department Enforcers, one of those who participate is 51-year-old, wide receiver and LAPD Deputy Adam Green. Standing five-feet-eleven, 175 pounds, Green with his helmet on looks like a typical college ball player, muscular and in shape.
“It’s difficult with the job we do have, but the emphasis is always, you must attend practice for our purpose,” Green said.
Green, on the sidelines during the game was as vocal as he was after, constantly preaching and motivating, with his well spoken and clear voice
Green has 23 years of protecting and serving in the LAPD and 21 seasons of playing on the gridiron.
Their goal is tackling all the difficulties blind children go through, and providing programs for infants, toddlers and grade school kids, through sponsored events.
The center is a nonprofit, founded in 1938 by Delta Gamma Alumnae of Southern California.
It will celebrate its 80th anniversary next year and continues to provide help to kids not only with visual imparities, but other disabilities, mental or physical.
“One of the unique things about our school is it’s inclusive to all. Families who have one child with a visual problem can bring their brother or sister along with for the program, to keep the family together help transition the visually impaired kid to the third grade,” Director of Programming and Communications at the center, Scott Kassel said.
“One of the biggest points we get across is we are family focused, and adding, that we are bilingual. We try to take in as many kids as we can,” Kassel said.
The center provides its services for free.
To get a child into the center the child must be between the ages of birth to 10, and most importantly, he or she must have a visual impairment. Students come in with needs for autism, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities or any other physical ailment.
Its yearly $3.3 million budget is continuously met through private donors, like the Centurions.
“Seeing them (the Centurions) reminds me why I got involved too. Working with these kids is rewarding and interesting and they have all our attention,” Occupational therapist Jackie Huerta said.
“We’re very familiar with what the Centurions do. The kids get super excited when they know its police officers who are coming in to interact with them,” Huerta said.
The Centurions are not new to the football scene, since its inaugural season in 1979, the LAPD’s squad has out lasted three leagues that have come and gone and is one of the two original teams of the NPSFL. The other original team, the New York Police Department Finest.
The NPSFL now has 22 teams across the country.
In 1996 law enforcement around the country decided to give it another try and form the National Law Enforcement Football League. Later in ‘98, it expanded by opening its competitive field to firefighters, military veterans and emergency medical personnel, hence the “Public Service,” in the league’s name.
The Centurions are currently undefeated at 3-0, behind the leadership of legendary, former head coach of Dorsey High School, Paul Knox. Knox has produced countless college and NFL talent at Dorsey, where he won four Los Angeles CIty Section championships.
“I’m really proud to help out. I got time now,” Knox said while laughing, he’s retired from coaching and teaching in the Los Angeles Unified School District. “We have a core of guys on this team that do it all for the love of the game, and in the process of putting the pads on, we help out.”
The lessons Knox teaches are mostly football technique and strategy, but he serves as a vocal leader of life lessons to men who protect and serve.
“I come out and try to instill the teamwork aspect of trusting each other and stressing the importance of practice,” Knox said. “All things that benefit these guys in their jobs.”
Practices are tough to schedule for police officers, with personnel from the Los Angeles International Airport Police, corrections officers, Fontana Police Department, port police, University of Southern California Police Department, the LAPD and more on the team. It’s almost impossible to get everyone on the same field.
“We’re gonna let the season unfold for us, our goal is obviously catch the championship, but we do it in our own way the best we can. Some of these guys come out with no sleep,” Knox said.
Overtime and night shifts prevent many from attending practices.
One of the hardest workers on the Centurions is LAPD Homicide Detective, Marc Rojas, who performs double duties as offensive coordinator on game day and on the board of directors for the Blind Children’s Center.
“11 years ago, I was introduced to the BCC and was taken back by their program. It really touched me in way that only a real relationship can provide. And that’s what happened. My relationship with them is second to none. They stick to their guns like I do. They stick to their word,” Rojas said.
Donors continue to pour into the center because it provides the biggest return on investment. According to center, 83 cents on the dollar, is used towards services provided by the center. Instruction the BBC provides is critical to help hone its students’ auditory skills, tactile acuity, and spatial perception. It transitions its kids to use real life skills in their new class rooms after the second grade.
Rojas on the field provides experience the Centurions need, with 20 seasons of coaching he is a staple of the offense. The BCC relies on his experience off the field, a former small business specialty trade contractor, Rojas meets the needs of the center in first year on the board.
“We have the best team we’ve ever had with the Centurions and the best board. Both working well. So far everything is going smooth on the field and off the field. We can only hope to finish the season with a title,” Rojas said.
According to Rojas, the Centurions have history with ELAC. During the late 1970s to mid ‘80s Centurion football was played at Weingart.
“(ELAC) Coach (Bobby) Godinez understands our history with the school. We’re very lucky in that regard. It’s very hard for us to find a game facility,” Rojas said.
Coach Godinez, was approached with the idea of having the Centurions on campus by his new wide receiver coach Marlon Burnett.
“We made sure we went through all the proper channels to see if the stadium was even available, or if it was even possible to have the Centurions here. But thanks to (ELAC) President Marvin Martinez and (Athletic Director) Al Cone,” Godinez said.
The Centurion’s next game will be April 22, with a time to be determined at Santa Ana Municipal Stadium, against the Orange County Lawmen.
Its last of three homes games at Weingart Stadium will be against big rival, the San Diego Enforcers, May 6, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5. Proceeds from the food and snack tent will benefit ELAC football.
Those interested in helping the BCC will have a chance this Friday, between 9 a.m. to noon, the center will host a “Beeping Egg Hunt” for its students and friends. Contact Development Associate, Melissa Purves at (323) 664-2153, extension: 2339.