St. Al football players put in service time directing traffic at Miss Mississippi

Published 8:00 am Saturday, June 25, 2022

Like almost every high school football team in Mississippi, the St. Aloysius Flashes were on the field and in the weight room this week preparing for the upcoming season.

Unlike a lot of other teams, that was only part of their day.

In the morning, from 8 a.m. to noon, players and coaches conducted a youth football camp for nearly three dozen players ages 12 and under. In the evening, they were at the Vicksburg Convention Center to direct traffic in the parking lot at the Miss Mississippi Competition.

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It’s made for some grueling, but rewarding, days for all involved.

“It’s one of the more stressful weeks,” St. Al head coach Bubba Nettles said with a laugh. “I have juniors and seniors that help me with the camp in the mornings. We have 32 or 33 campers and it’s a very successful fundraiser for us, but I could tell the other day that they were tired. It’s a tough week for everybody in the St. Al program.”

The Flashes’ busy week resulted from a perfect storm of several simultaneous events.

The football camp was already on the schedule as one of many sports camps the school is offering this summer. Then, several varsity players returned from a group vacation. Nettles did not want to let a week of precious offseason time slip away, so he scheduled workouts in the afternoon.

Volunteering at the Miss Mississippi Competition in the evening, meanwhile, was a chance for students to put in community service hours that are required for graduation, and help the school’s athletics program in the process.

Nettles said the school is receiving a donation from the Miss Mississippi Corporation for the students’ work. In addition to working the parking lots, the Flashes helped contestants move their luggage into their hotel rooms at the beginning of the week and will help them move out on Sunday.

“David Blackledge (executive director of the Miss Mississippi Competition) came to me last year because we had known each other a long time, and said we would love for your boys to work the parking lots,” Nettles said. “Our kids don’t complain about anything. They know it’s community service. And our program gets a nice donation.”

The competition began Tuesday and concludes Saturday night. St. Al’s varsity and junior varsity players each worked several evening shifts at the Convention Center directing cars in and out of lots and checking parking passes.

“It’s not that difficult. Just make sure people have their passes and stuff,” St. Al football player Scoot Melton said while manning a parking lot barricade Thursday evening.

Nettles requires all of his players to perform 100 hours of community service before they graduate, and their work at the Miss Mississippi Competition goes toward that.

Nettles, though, doesn’t look at it as solely a task to endure. Even in 100-degree heat, he said it was a fun way for the team to get to know each other.

“The boys love it because they think they’re going to get to see the pretty contestants,” Nettles joked. “I enjoy it because we’re getting to hang around each other in a non-football environment where I can get to know these guys in a different way. It’s a team bonding experience.”

James Tate, who was working the Convention Center’s lower parking lot alongside Melton, enjoyed it for a different reason.

“We were cool with it because we get to miss two days of three hours of football practice,” he laughed.

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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