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New youth football program coming to Citrus Heights with familiar help

Greg Roeszler, of Playmakers. // Marcus D. Smith

By Marcus D. Smith–
Greg Roeszler, known as “Coach Roz,” is the executive director of Playmakers, a nonprofit organization that helps at-risk kids and children with special needs through youth football and the foundation of sports.

Roeszler is partnering up with Mesa Verde varsity football head coach, Lenny Casillas, to help bring the Playmakers program to Citrus Heights.

“This is free youth football for 100 kids and 100 families. All completely provided their grades are acceptable and that the teachers tell us that their character is acceptable,” said Coach Roz.

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In approximately, two weeks Playmakers will be accepting applications and will look to sign up to 100 kids and families to begin their “Playmaker” process immediately.

Part of the process is beginning to grade-check and behavior-check the students, maintaining their goal of increasing students’ academic performance, increasing their attendance, and improving their behavior and character.

“They have to be decent kids, and if they’re not then we’re going to use football as the leverage to help guide them in the proper direction,” he continued.

Playmakers began to make a difference in the community when the program was first established in 2010. The nonprofit’s mission is to invoke values within the next generation of not just athletes, but citizens.

Coach Roz and Playmakers help in the community by providing support for both at-risk kids, as well as special needs kids. Through peer-to-peer mentoring, they can create relationships and develop bonds with the families throughout the year.

“We started in the summer with football camps…where we get the kids and the families together and we ‘firehose’ them with character and old school values,” said Roeszler.

The youth football program accepts boys and girls of all ages. They are also looking to expand to a sports league, in the near future.

Last Saturday, Feb. 29, Playmakers worked with Sacramento State student athletes to host Unified Basketball, a basketball tournament for special needs kids. It was the first time most of the kids had a chance to play basketball other than with themselves.

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“That’s the third one of those that we’ve done and we’re actually starting a [sports] league for kids with special needs,” said Roeszler.

Roeszler, is a Sacramento native. He graduated from Encina High School, where he was a standout athlete in football. Coach Roz went on to attend and play football at University of Minnesota, Cosumnes River College and San Diego State.

He had a short stint with the Oakland Raiders as a camp quarterback in 1979.

Despite his return to Sacramento, he did not envision himself ever coaching. It would be a position as a volunteer coach that changed the path he walked on.

“I got roped into volunteer coaching in the inner city here in Sacramento and very quickly we saw that there were kids that we were coaching that were living in cars and living in hotels,” said Roeszler.

Many of the kids they are working with often don’t have a mother or father both at home. According to Fatherhood.org, approximately one-in-four children in America live without a father in the home.

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Roeszler knew a change had to made after he was made aware that his players would only eat one meal a day, that being the free lunch meal provided at school.

In attempts to raise money for the kids, Roeszler will be holding different events, which can be signed up for at www.theplaymakers.org.  On April 16, Playmakers will be partnering with Heisman Trophy winner, and NFL Hall of Famer, Tim Brown for the Playmakers-Tim Brown Camp at the Highway Patrol Academy for kids with special needs and at-risk kids.

On April 25, they will be hosting a Fund-a-Need dinner at Divine Savior Catholic Church, with former 49er Otis Amey as a guest speaker.

Roeszler has organizations in Buffalo, New York and Omaha, Nebraska, thanks to Buffalo Bills defensive tackle, Harrison Phillips. Phillips is a Playmaker and with his help, they host camps in Buffalo at Buffalo Stadium. They also hold camps in Omaha and Sacramento.

Another Playmaker is Jordan Richard of the Baltimore Ravens. Roeszler prides on those two individuals being people of character and good role models for youth.

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“We know that if we do that with football, then they are going to be a better student, they’re going to be a better player when they get to Mesa [Verde],” said Roeszler. “We want this to be a model that certainly the Bills are looking at and that the NFL begins to look at.”

Playmaker is also looking for those interested in giving back their time in various ways, including volunteer opportunities or becoming a Playmaker coach or mentor.

Playmakers goal is to raise $25,000 to provide 100 kids with a free youth football season. Additional information can be found at www.theplaymakers.org.

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