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Photo by Patti Sunday: On Saturday, Oct.15 95 young athletes came to Questa for the NFL Flag Football Clinic, taught by retired NFL Pros.

NFL Flag Football: Big League Fun for Local Kids

The NFL Flag Football Clinic Saturday, Oct.15, in Questa was a resounding success. Ninety-five children from Questa and surrounding communities attended the morning clinic. Participants learned some of the basic skills of football, including running routes, evading opponents, and catching passes. Three of the mini-classes were taught by former NFL professionals Bobby Taylor, Demetric Evans and Mike Bobino. The pros also gave the eager youngsters a Q & A session on their careers and stressed the importance of scholarship and dedication.

Former Eagles and Seahawks cornerback Bobby Taylor, Co-Chair of the NFL Legends Youth Advisory Committee, said he was impressed with New Mexico for its beauty, and Questa for the turnout. He said “A part of our mission is to help grow youth and high school football. It’s an exciting game.” Commenting on the large number of girls in attendance, he added, “It’s definitely getting more young ladies involved.”

Demetric Evans, who played defensive end, noted, “[Questa is] a very feeling community, very supportive. I see a lot of the moms and dads out here this morning and that says a lot.” Evans, the father of 8- and 11-year-old boys, says he joined the NFL Flag Football program to help kids get and stay healthy and to give them a “safe introduction to the game of football.”

The event was hosted by Smart Sports, a new Maryland-based non-profit headed by former-college athlete Kelly Mehrtens. She explained why she was eager to work in Questa: “I came from a small community, Panama City, Florida… we just didn’t have a lot of things. We weren’t a big city, so I understand that vibe… it’s an opportunity to bring something to this community where the kids get a chance to think about ‘what else?’ We as adults have to help kids dream.”

Kit Carson Electric Coop was the Regional Sponsor for the event. Taos Bakes provided snacks for all kids and parents. Local leaders — Kit Carson Board President Bobby Ortega, Red River Mayor Linda Calhoun and Questa Economic Development Fund board president Malaquis Rael — also stopped in to personally welcome the players.

The children were the focus of the day and parents were happy to see it. Tiffany Segura, whose 8-year-old son attended, said, “I think it’s awesome they were able to bring something like this, especially to such a small town.”

Alicia Martinez said “I think it’s a good idea. These kids need something to do. It teaches them how to work together and be a team,” sentiments echoed by Taos County Manager Brent Jaramillo. “It’s great to teach kids the fundamentals of football, the fundamentals of working as a team. Flag football is a great way to model [positive] behavior.”

Kids came from all over, including Colorado. Economic Development Consultant Patti Sunday, who played a large part in bringing the event to town, says that was the intention. “We marketed up there a little bit…. We consider the rural region of Northern New Mexico to be very similar to the rural region of Southern Colorado. We aspire for this league to go from the Town of Taos to Alamosa. I actually played flag football myself in my UF collegiate sorority league. It was very affirming as a female to have a connection to a larger sport.”

Mayor John Ortega, who played youth and high school football himself, explained why casting a wide net is so important. “These kids [in Questa and the area] for their football leagues, their soccer leagues, they have to travel all the way to Santa Fe.”

The plan is to get more youth involved in the region, with a league forming in the spring.
Taos County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Jason Rael, who is president of the Questa School Board, said that communities as far away as Chama have expressed interest in participating if Questa takes the initiative. “Our Superintendent John Maldonado worked directly with Kelly to coordinate the event. We were so pleased as these professional NFL players commented on the quality of our turf field, setting and facilities.”

Patti Sunday explained no date has been set, but with the turnout for this first event, the proposed league is definite. Play will begin “after the snow melts” in late-April to early-May, and will run for six weeks. Each Smart Sports student will receive an official NFL Football jersey to keep and wear while playing in the league. Check this paper for further announcements.