PATERSON, NJ- Parents, community leaders, and elected officials saw the Nifty Lions U-14 youth football team off on Friday as they embarked on a more than 16-hour bus ride from Paterson to Plant City, Florida, to play in the United Youth Football League’s Championship tournament.

Among the team’s supporters for the send off from the Putnam Oval were Paterson City Council members Ruby Cotton and Dr. Lilisa Mimms who donated Subway sandwiches, drinks, and snacks for the journey. Both offered words of encouragement, Cotton in the form of one of her trademark inspirational speeches, Mimms, who also serves as a Pastor, in a prayer asking for protection over the players and other travelers over the long journey.

“Never forget you’re from Paterson,” Cotton implored them before telling them how proud she was of their efforts, and how important it was that they represent the city in a positive light. “I hope you’ll learn and excel on your trip,” Mimms added. “I want you to come back with great excitement, and the win.”

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Also offering their support were members of the Paterson Fire Department. Opening the doors of the Riverside Firehouse firefighters invited the players in for an impromptu photo session with Kyle Hughes, President of FMBA Local 2, making a simple request: Bring the trophy back to Paterson.

Among the adults taking the trip was Erika Nwajei, the club’s executive director. Asked about the importance of the outlet that the team affords the players Nwajei offered her belief that if not playing football some the youth would just be “hanging on the street, getting in trouble.”

Instead, she added, they have been given this opportunity to travel out of state, meet other players from across the country, and learn that there is “life outside of Paterson.”

Perhaps most importantly, Nwajei told TAPinto Paterson, being on the Nifty Lions gives the players a reason to keep their grades up as they are expected to perform in the classroom, as well as on the football field. Each player she said, attends study on Friday evenings, and each has homework and assignments packed for the trip to make up for the time they’ll spend away from school.

The Nifty Lions will play four games before hopefully advancing to the championship game.


TAPinto Paterson was proud to be the only local news outlet covering the Nifty Lions journey to Florida! Follow us on Facebook and sign up for TAPinto Paterson E-News alerts to be the first to get updates on their tournament play!

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