“Life is a competition between you and yourself” – Mark Twain.
Former Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Marcellus Wiley recited that quote in front of the Inglewood and Morningside high school varsity football players as he and Rams’ Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson unveiled the new football uniforms donated by the respective teams on Tuesday (Aug. 7).
“Every year it’s a struggle to outfit our basketball and football teams,” stated Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts. “For the first time in the seven years that I’ve been Mayor, we’ve had a community partner to step up and buy them.”
The Rams and the Chargers teamed up to donate $10,000 each towards 50 home and 50 away jerseys for both Inglewood and Morningside high school.
“Playing the sport of football there was nothing like putting on that jersey, especially in Texas,” commented Dickerson, who grew up playing football in Sealy, Texas. “I still remember the smell of it. I’m sure it’s the same feeling for all these young men.”
As the high school players entered the gyms, echoes of jersey numbers were being called out. Smiles filled the gym as players closely examined their new jerseys.
“My teammates when I talked to them they told me that it motivated them to do more this season,” said Tyree Brown, the rising senior starting quarterback for Morningside. “For me, it makes me find inspiration.”
The players were equally surprised by Wiley and Dickerson’s involvement in the special unveiling.
“I appreciate the greats like them coming out because that just goes to show that there’s no love lost throughout the community,” commented Montana Lemonius-Craig, an 11th grader at Inglewood High School. “Even though we’re young and we’re still in high school, the older men are still looking out for us and still respect the tradition of Inglewood high school.”
Though the day was about the two NFL franchises giving back to their community, Wiley shared that it was a special moment for him to share the stage with Dickerson.
“I had two posters on my wall growing up, John Elway and Eric Dickerson,” Wiley addressed the players. “Respect for him being here because it allowed a guy like me to have a role model when I was getting into the league.”
Wiley, a South Central Los Angeles native, recounted playing pop warner football as an adolescent in Inglewood. He went on to graduate from Ivy League Columbia University. He emphasized to the players the importance of staying focused on education and setting goals both on and off the field.
“When you think about it, probably one percent of one percent of the best college athletes will become pro players in any sport,” stated Mayor Butts. “What does matter is that kids are encouraged and that kids know that they matter.”
The players were not the only ones who were excited about being gifted with the new uniforms. When Inglewood head coach, Michael Grimble, found out that the Chargers and Rams were donating the jerseys he was overcome with emotion.
“I started crying,” Grimble recalled. “It was just a shocker that they came together for this effort. It shows [the kids] that people in high seats look out for the community.”
Both Inglewood and Morningside will debut their new uniforms at the start of this football season. Wiley commenced by saying, “Keep it going and represent the Wood.”
The Rams and Chargers will not only share this joint effort, soon the two organizations will call the LA Stadium and Entertainment District at Hollywood Park in 2020 their home stadium.