Speak with Ricky Smith in the midst of football and you are immediately transported to the fall of 1979 and the Lorain Steelmen take on Elyria for the conference title.
Lorain was the best team in the conference and the Pioneers, the best defense, had not given up a touchdown.
Elyria won 8-7.
Smith was a defensive tackle in the team and he is still in Lorain football to this day.
He is now in his 22nd year as chair of the Steel City Youth Football Mentorship program. The organization teaches children aged 5 to 12 the basics of full contact football, while developing a passion for the sport and an emphasis on safety.
This year, the program divides 120 children into four teams; ages range from 6 and under to 12 and under. The teams travel to Akron for some games, Smith said. A ceremony was held during the games of September 11 to commemorate this dark day in our country’s history, when the league’s oldest players were still eight years from their birth.
Safe play is emphasized. Young players learn good tackling form, said league coach Brandon Tolliver.
Players train three times a week, two hours per practice.
Several recent star athletes from Lorain High School, who continued to play college football, played for the Steelmen while growing up, including current Kansas City chief and Clearview graduate Anthony Hitchens, Smith said. . Rashod Berry, who went on to play at Ohio State and in the NFL, also played in the program, Smith said.
Karrengton Wade played in the program and now at age 21, he coaches there while graduating from Kent State.
âIt helped build character. Let me see it from a different perspective and helped me build discipline, said Wade when asked what he gained playing in the Steel City program. âCoaches have always wanted the best for us. They were strict and tough. They forced us to keep a cool head, even in the face of adversity, and that transferred from the field to my life. “