Suffolk: A city of Steel!

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Kevon Hamlin calls Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis his favorite NFL player. &uot;He’s really strong, and he can run fast,&uot; explains the 11-year-old Mack Benn Jr. Elementary School student. Over the next few weeks, Hamlin hopes to recreate his hero’s accomplishments on Pop Warner football fields across Hampton Roads.

He’s the running back for the Junior Pee-Wee Inner-City Steelers, who practice three times a week at John F. Kennedy Middle School. &uot;I’m just going to try to run through everyone,&uot; says Hamlin. &uot;I hope I’m fast enough to score.&uot;

So does head coach Fred Greene. &uot;We’re starting with a fresh core; there’s only about three or four guys left over from last season,&uot; Greene says, watching his players run wind sprints and do jumping jacks.

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Last season’s Steeler Junior Pee-Wee team made it all the way to the Twin City Classic in Winston-Salem, N.C. Tyquan Lewis was a member of that team. &uot;I don’t know how we’re going to do this year,&uot; the Mount Zion Elementary School student says with a shrug. &uot;I think we’re going to win and have fun.&uot;

Antonio Hall, 8, has his own ideas of fun. &uot;If I see someone coming toward me, I’m going to knock them down!&uot; promises the Elephant’s Fork Elementary School student. &uot;It’s so much fun to hit people!&uot;

Over on the Pee-Wee field, quarterback Larry Kindred runs his receivers through the &uot;10-and-in&uot; drill. At the count of &uot;Down, set, hut one!&uot; the Steeler pass-catchers charge out 10 steps and juke to the left.

Kindred hopes he can handle the pressures of a defensive line in the heat of battle. &uot;It’s going to be different, with all the people coming at me,&uot; admits the Mack Benn Jr. Elementary School student, &uot;but I won’t be scared or nervous. I think I’ll probably throw like (St. Louis Rams quarterback) Kurt Warner.&uot;

The Inner-City squads allow youths of all ages to take part in gridiron battle, even those that aren’t old enough to strap on a pair of shoulder pads. The flag football team is for children ages 5-7.

&uot;I’ve learned a lot of stuff about football,&uot; says Devante Rountree, 7, a student at Kilby Shores Elementary School. &uot;You play flag football just like you’d play tackle. I can’t wait to play tackle so I can play with the big boys!