LYNN — Since he took over as Manning Field’s Facilities Manager, Rich Avery has made it a point to focus on bringing free sports clinics to Lynn’s youth.
“Me and Mayor Thomas McGee got together and talked about how this field is used a lot for the high school kids,” Avery, who took over the role in 2016, said. “We always think about how there aren’t too many free clinics around for kids, whether it be in the summer or in the school year. So we started looking around.”
It’s safe to say that Avery and McGee are reaching their goal of bringing opportunities to the city’s youth. Thursday evening, the Patriots Alumni Association’s “Football For You” clinic drew quite the crowd at Manning Field.
“We met with the Patriots Alumni Association and explained what we were trying to do and they thought it was a great fit,” Avery said. “We had a great turnout so it was a pretty good idea. It’s similar to what we did with the Red Sox Foundation for a clinic back in March. It’s the same thing. Baseball and football are two big sports in the city of Lynn. Anything we can set up for free like this is great for the kids in this city.”
Over 75 local youth participated in the event which included six offensive and defensive drills directed by former New England Patriots players and coaches. Patriots Alumni Association President Pete Brock, a former Patriots center/guard who was drafted in the first round of the 1976 NFL Draft, was thrilled to bring the event to Lynn.
“We look for towns and communities like Lynn to put this in,” Brock said. “What we’re really trying to do is show off the benefits of playing football to kids that may not be playing right now or may not have much of an interest. We try to generate that kind of spark.”
Avery learned about the event and got connected to Brock through former Manning Field facilities manager John Kasian. After the two talked and met, Brock knew Lynn was a perfect fit for what the clinic aims to do.
“Lynn is right in our wheelhouse for this,” Brock said. “Why it took us this long to get here I can’t say but Rich found out about what we were doing through connections and it worked out great. The surprising thing is we had this set up for earlier in June but it was pouring rain. To see this kind of turnout on a rescheduled date is real exciting.”
The aspiring athletes got to work on their skills with a handful of former Patriots including 3-time Super Bowl champion fullback Patrick Pass and 2-time champion linebacker Tully Banta-Cain.
“Garin Veris who was a rookie in 1985 (was) here,” Brock said. “The first year the Patriots went to the Super Bowl, he set a rookie sack record at 12.5. Everyone was sliding to double team Andre Tippett and left the rookie alone.
“Coach Rick Buffington who was on staff with Ron Erhardt and Chuck Fairbanks in the late 70’s and early 80’s,” Brock added. “He also does a lot of consulting work in Arena Football and semi pro-type organizations. He’s been around football for a long time. Steve King was my special teams coach for a number of years when I first broke into the league so that’s pretty special too.”
Along with some former pros, English and Classical coaches Chris Carroll and Brian Vaughan brought their own players to help run the drill stations and soak in the experience.
“I talked to Coach Vaughan and Coach Carroll, we have a good relationship because they obviously play at Manning,” Avery said. “I asked them to help out and they didn’t hesitate to say ‘yes.’ They brought guys and it’s a great turnout for both schools.”
“It’s one thing for the Patriots to come out here and put a camp on,” Brock said, “but when the kids look up and see the face of local football with these high school kids and the local coaches, it really puts a better meaning to the whole thing.”