Roman Oben addresses the crowd. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Sgt. John-Paul Beebe, Sparta Police Chief Ernest Reigstad, Keynote Speaker Roman Oben, and Sparta Township Councilwoman Molly Whilesmith. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Players listen to Chris Quinn. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Sparta Police Sergeant John-Paul Beebe. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Members of the Police Pipes and Drums of Morris County performed for the students. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Members of the Police Pipes and Drums of Morris performed for the students. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Kindergarten age cheerleaders for the white flag team. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Roman Oben speaks to players before the game. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Roman Oben during the coin toss. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Sparta Spartans versus the Kittatinny Cougars. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
A Kittatinny Cougar tackles a Sparta Spartan during the game. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Sparta Township Police Sgt. John-Paul Beebe. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Jerry Morelli of Mugs Media and Sports Beat. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
A section of the crowd at Friday's event. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Josh Hertzberg at the podium. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Councilwoman Molly Whilesmith. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Mayor Jerry Mayor. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Players listen to the speakers. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Sparta Little League Football and Sparta Township Police Department Youth Division Kickoff ‘Friday Night Lights For Life’ With Super Bowl Champion Roman Oben
Saturday, August 25, 2012 • 3:16pm
SPARTA, NJ – Players and families for the Sparta Spartans and the Kittatinny Cougars gathered on Friday night to literally kickoff not only the Sparta Spartan Youth Football season, but also the “Friday Night Lights For Life” program to benefit the Sparta Township Police Department Youth Division.
Additionally present at the special event was former NFL Great and Super Bowl Champion, Roman Oben, who was the keynote speaker.
The Police Pipes and Drums of Morris County performed for the students before their game as well.
Other dignitaries and speakers at the event included: Sparta Township Police Sergeant John-Paul Beebe, Sparta Township Police Chief Ernest Reigstad, Jerry Morelli of Mugs Media and “Sports Beat”, Sparta Township Mayor Jerry Murphy, Sparta Township Councilwoman Molly Ann Whilesmith, and Sparta Spartans Youth Football President Josh Hertzberg, and Vice President Chris Quinn.
Last year, “Friday Night Lights For Life” raised funds for paralyzed Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand, and Reigstad told The Alternative Press his reaction to the organization’s support of the Sparta Township Police Department Youth Division this year.
“I think it’s great the Sparta Little League Football has taken on our fundraising cause this year,” he said. “It shows they’re more about football and cheerleading, and the general well-being of the kids, and, anything to make drugs less prevalent here.”
The program will focus on mentoring township youth beginning at the sixth through eighth grade levels, and will eventually encompass students up to the 12th grade.
“They’ll learn something about police work,” Reigstad continued. “It’s being good citizens like in scouting, but with a police twist. It will identify young boys and girls, and hope they become positive role models.”
There are currently 28 officers in the department, and Reigstad said the majority of the officers, including he and a core group of eight or more, would be involved.
Now down from 40 to 28 officers on staff, Reigstad said the department no longer has the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program, and Sparta Township Police Officers devised the program, and will volunteer their time with it.
“The officers do this on their own time, and try to have a positive influence, and identify kids who will be positive influences,” said Reigstad.
Beebe reiterated at the podium, “This division cannot impact this township budget.”
There will be two upcoming public hearings to introduce this to the township, Beebe said.
Student participants will moreover receive CPR and First Aid training. Reigstad said he hopes that will inspire students to eventually become involved as cadets with the Sparta Volunteer Ambulance Squad.
Many of the activities for the Sparta Township Police Department Youth Division will take place at the Sparta PAL (Police Athletic League) Center on 38 Station Road, which opened its doors in March 2012.
“We are grateful for such a proactive police department, this is an incredible program, thank you for your support and dedication,” said Whilesmith.
Murphy, who said he was on Sparta’s first Warriors Football Team, read a proclamation from the township, declaring the night “Friday Night Lights For Life”, and asking the citizens to support the cause.
“Let’s keep giving back to this great community,” Herzberg added while on the podium.
“Without the junior police academy, things will get worse, if not better,” said Quinn. “We can show we are making a difference in this community by addressing it.”
Morelli introduced Oben, and asked for the participants to give a “big Sparta welcome” to him.
Oben is a retired American football offensive tackle, who played for the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
He is a co-host on a WFAN show, providing pre and post game New York Giants coverage. Oben also started the New Jersey-based Oben Flag Football, an NFL Play 60 program, which helps to advocate youth health and fitness.
Oben resides with his family in New Jersey.
He told the group he was born in Cameroon, Africa, and his single mother left the country to move to Washington, DC.
“I grew up with an accent in urban DC, and got picked on a lot,” Oben said.
He learned to speak English from the television, and now does not have a trace of an accent.
He talked to the players and their families about the importance of good role models, and said he grew up in Washington, DC when Marion Barry was mayor.
“He was not a good role model,” Oben said, referring to Barry’s drug charges.
Oben turned to Murphy with a smile, and Murphy smiled back, “Mayor, we could have used you back then.”
At one time, Oben said at one time he looked up to Dexter Manley of the Washington Redskins, Phoenix Cardinals, and Tampa Bay Buccanners, who was eventually banned from the NFL for drug use.
He told the audience that he watched Manley’s mistakes, and learned from them.
“Choice is not only about right or wrong, but in some cases, life or death,” Oben said.
“Success is not a destination, it’s a process,” Oben added. “For some of you younger adults, you know the difference between right and wrong. It’s a daily choice.”
Of his own career, he said, “I never did anything that was put in the newspaper in a negative life. I can always be proud of that.”
“You have such a great role and responsibility to these kids,” Oben told the adults in the audience.
He gave the students a three letter acronym, “ACE”, which stands for Attitude, Concentration, and Effort.
Oben held up two helmets, a Sparta Spartans helmet, and one from the Tampa Bay Buccanneers. He said in spite of the difference in the two helmets, what was the same was the ability to make the right choice no matter what helmet one wore.
He reminded parents, “The most valuable thing I can give my kids is my time.”
Oben said the fondest memories he has of youth are activities such as car rides, and playing games of checkers.
Of his visit to Sparta, Oben told The Alternative Press, “This is a wonderful community, I look forward to coming back. Thanks for letting me be a part of it.”