Naperville Saints host second annual Football Jamboree

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“So, we thought we have to do this again. We have to get players excited to play for the season and we need to get players and coaches in the routines of their installed offenses and defenses,” said Naperville Saints board member Mike Lemons.

As the Naperville Saints take the field for their 60th season, the organization kicked off the 2023 campaign with its second annual jamboree at Knoch Park after a successful event last summer. It’s a chance to give kids ages 8 to 14 years to strap up into their gameday gear and get that contact experience under their belt before upcoming games.

“We had such a positive experience last year that we knew it was something we wanted to do again. We all love having everybody out here together. Not all teams always see each other some will play next town over, and some are here for home games, so it’s a way to get the whole community and a big celebration for the Saints,” said Naperville Saints president Tom Liabo.

Growth for football in Naperville

As the Saints program grows in age following four decades of leadership under the legendary Jim Brown, the group is also seeing a growth in numbers, with over 500 kids interested in hitting the gridiron after drawing 420 a year ago. Having the second jamboree as a pre-season special is pivotal for elevating interest in youth football in Naperville.

“It gives kids discipline. They must work on challenging circumstances and have to put in much work, practicing three to four days a week. That’s what I’m most excited about to see our players come back with our kids and their grandkids and talk about when we were in our first two years of ever doing this,” said Lemons.

Geared up for the next level

This jamboree is also an excellent way to help get the kids ready for the high school level, as many players will likely take their talents to schools like Benet, Naperville Central, Naperville North, Metea, Neuqua, and Waubonsie Valley. Having this experience not only brings joy to the kids but also to the families.

“We have the best time, and I feel like football is a whole family experience my daughter is cheering for the new DVC Saints cheer program. My oldest son plays football, my middle son plays football, me and my youngest son come to watch, and all the grandparents come. I love that football is a family-oriented sport,” said Saints parent Nicole Jurjovec.

“I enjoy that it teaches the kids that they have to play as a team for their team to be successful. They do a great job. We have some new players here, so I’m excited to see them mix within our group and how they’ll elevate our team to the next level,” said Saints parent Nikita Wynn.

With two successful jamborees in the books and the Naperville Saints celebrating their diamond anniversary, the program hopes events like this will lead to continued expanding numbers and success on the gridiron. 

“Seeing the growth is terrific, so at this point, we are one hundred and eight percent in two years, and it’s a great number that shows the resurgence of youth football here in Naperville. More importantly, it shows that we are doing something mostly right,” added Lemons. 

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