As the New England Patriots celebrate their recent Super Bowl victory, Houston has its own version of big-game champions. 

One of the city’s best kept secrets, the Southside Ravens football program has its roots in Third Ward’s Cuney Homes. The team is led by head coach James Walker and team president Nakesha Boone and defeated the Mo City Jaguars to win their youth league “Super Bowl.” 

With 90 percent of the team coming from public housing, the program provides the kids with positive resources needed to overcome the adversities some of them face. The Defender spoke with Walker about the program and the impact it is making on and off the field in the lives of young athletes.  

Defender: What were the keys to success in the championship run? 

Walker:Working as a team. Our motto we use is, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” Everyone understands that we are all on a team and I make sure to teach them why they need to understand their roles in order for us to move together as a unit…Unity is huge.

Defender: How has the program helped the kids involved?

Walker:The program has helped because [it] is a little bigger than football. It’s not just about the sport. Ninety percent of the kids come from shattered homes and can’t afford to play, so our jobs is a little tougher than a usual little league football team. We are more than just coaches to these kids, we are fathers. We have to go school to check on them, deal with them, redirect them. We are not just hands-on on the field but off the field as well because we want them to understand we truly love and care about them.

Defender: What are some of the success stories you have seen?

Walker:One kid was struggling emotionally, not understanding why his situation wasn’t what the other kids’ situations were. At school, he would hear other kids brag about things they did with their parents or did with their dad, and he was struggling with that. He became a part of the football team and had a couple of breakdowns, lashing out, but by the end of the season he was a leader and a captain on the team. At the end of the season he understood that your situation doesn’t determine who you need to be. And that spoke volumes to me.

Defender: What can Houstonians do to help the program?

Walker:Because of our success, we been invited to a higher-level league with higher-level players, better teams and better competition. So, this year our age 6-and-under guys that have been winning championships usually playing flag football will now be in another league playing tackle. We definitely need new helmets and we have been trying to put some money together to get a small van to transport the children that don’t have transportation. 

For more information on how to help call 346-401-0319 or 713-405-0198.