One hundred plus players from 19 towns took Dalling Field in Trumbull for the St. Joseph High School Free Football Clinic hosted by former Cadet and current Pittsburgh Steeler Tyler Matakevich on Saturday.
Kids from 5th to 8th grade were happy to meet Matakevich, Steeler teammate Sean Davis, and former Shelton High All-Staters Paul Piccirillo and Bobby Valeri. Also on hand were a mix of former college stars from Temple, St. Joseph, Bunnell and Stratford, along with a handful of Cadet coaches and players.
“Being able to come back here — where shoot I was running around younger than them — is fantastic,” said Matakevich, who in his third season with the Steelers out of Temple University will battle for a starting inside linebacker position.
“This is awesome. My St. Joe’s guys are here and a few of my buddies from out of town. It means the world to me to be back on this field.
“This is what the kids love, to be with guys like Sean Davis from the Steelers and all my Temple guys. Any way we can give back and help out the community. This is what it’s all about.”
This was no picnic for the campers, however, as they were broken into groups and swapped with different instructors to learn the basics and more about all aspects of playing football — line play, special teams, running back, wide receiver, defensive backs and quarterback.
“I met up with Tyler at my dad’s restaurant in Boston and he asked me to come down and help out,” said Piccirillo, who went on from Shelton to star at wide receiver at Stonehill College. “I miss football, and today is great. I eat sleep and breathe Shelton football. Coming back here for the community and the kids has been fabulous. The way Tyler organized this, it is incredible. Stonehill was absolutely the right choice — academics first and making friendships that will last forever. Football was really a blast.”
Valeri is gearing up for his sophomore season with the Southern Connecticut State University Owls. “I’ve been running, lifting and really hitting the playbook,” said Valeri, who played in eight games as a freshman. “Aug. 26 is training camp. I try to be versatile and can play either center or guard.
“Ty’s my cousin and he asked if I could help out. It’s great for kids. This is great, meeting everyone, I’m sure these kids are excited. Paulie Pic is a legend in Shelton and it was great to see him again.”
Among the campers were Shelton Vikings players Devin Reid, Julian Basta, Joseph Vargas and Zachary Vargas.
Reid plays running back and linebacker and roots for the Steelers.
Basta favors the Green Bay Packers and is a quarterback.
Joseph Vargas likes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and plays linebacker.
Zachary Vargas is a defensive end.
One of the clinicians was Mark Harrison, out of Bunnell High and Rutgers University, who saw time with the New England Patriots and Chicago Bears
“It’s about being with Tyler and these kids,” he said. “Being out here, embracing the membership of playing ball together, seeing old teammates, old friends. Being able to share our knowledge, and to have them see us having fun doing it, is what it is all about.”