As they prepare for their Aug. 30 season opener, Romeoville High School football players are sporting a new attitude…and it has little to do with the gridiron itself.
Thanks to a partnership between the RHS football program and the newly formed Gridiron Club, varsity football players have been busy forming what Head Football Coach Jeff Kuna calls “a reciprocal relationship with our community.”
“Obviously our number one goal is to be a playoff team each and every fall,” Kuna said. “But all of us have to make a year-round commitment to being better students, better athletes, better people all-around.”
That commitment started earlier this summer when a core group of parents came to Kuna asking how they could help the RHS football program.
“Many of their kids have gone through the RYFC (Romeoville Youth Football and Cheerleading) program and they wanted to do some extra stuff for our kids,” Kuna said. “They wanted to do some fundraising because they all have strong ties to the community and have the resources to get support for the program. But more importantly, they wanted to provide a support system for the coaches and players.”
“They’re really doing a great job with that,” he added, pointing out the Gridiron Club has put together a summer cookout, is recruiting parents to help operate the concession stand and is providing Gatorade and/or snack bags for players after road games.
But turn-about is fair play.
“We’re asking the community to give to our kids, so we wanted the kids to give back as well,” said Kuna.
As a result, several dozen RHS varsity players volunteered their time this summer helping at the DuPage Township Food Pantry and at RYFC equipment and registration days. They also gave Coach Kuna a hand at his Romeoville Recreation Department Football Academy.
“We’re seeing our guys step up because they see what the community is doing for us,” Kuna said. “I’ve seen a change in attitude. They feel good about themselves. They see the importance of helping in the community and once they do it, they realize how much they enjoy it.”
“We’re doing whatever we can do to help out,” said senior co-captain Mark Hammond. “There’s a lot more energy and a lot of team bonding. It’s bringing us closer together.”
“By getting the community involved, you’re bringing the community together,” added senior co-captain Caleb Purham. “It makes the season more fun and enjoyable which is why a lot of us go out to play.”
Kuna hopes the team spirit spreads to the lower levels of the program.
“Hopefully as freshmen come into our program, they’ll see what the upper classmen are doing and they’ll want to become a part of that,” he said.
As for the Gridiron Club, Kuna is delighted to have parents involved.
“I’ve always encouraged something like this, but this group of parents has really pulled together,” he said. “They’re going above and beyond to find different ways to support us.”
"As parents, we are committed to instilling a servant leadership way of thinking into our boys and know that it will build character as they become men,” said Bonnie Jones, Secretary of the Gridiron Club. “We know that one day they will be leaders in our community."