TUSCOLA (WCIA) — There’s a tradition starting in Tuscola that keeps Illini football players coming back. Kendall Smith and Jamal Woods are volunteer coaches for the Tuscola Flag Football league. They were eager to coach last season, before the pandemic shut things down. But for three years, there’s been an Illini player asking to coach on the sidelines at Ervin Park.
“Had to wait a little bit for it, but it’s been great,” says Smith. “I love coming out here, and I’ve learned a lot from them as I’m sure they’ve learned from me.”
Former Illini running back Reggie Corbin was one of the first to coach with the league, and it hasn’t stopped since.
“It was something I been wanting to do, ever since I seen Reggie Corbin do it,” said Woods. “And when that opportunity came, I took it upon myself to take it.”
Corbin built a special bond with one of the league’s athletes — Colton Rahn. Colton has cerebral palsy, making tackle football too dangerous. So his dad, Jason, founded the league so Colton could have an opportunity to play, even better that he gets D-I level coaching.
“They help me progress when I sometimes have trouble getting to where I want to be,” says Rahn. “They help me get to where I want to be.”
And that’s an undefeated 5-0 regular season record with his Seahawks team, but his friendship with the Illinois players has benefited athletes all over Central Illinois. The league has grown from 61 to more than 100 athletes, with six different Illini volunteering to coach throughout the years. Matt Judd is also on the sidelines this year, who is the first Eastern Illinois player to coach with the league.
“It’s an awesome feeling to do something like this, but it’s awesome for the kids just to give my knowledge on the game, and just kind of show them what I know,” says Judd. “I didn’t really know what entailed being a coach beside x’s and o’s. Now it’s building the kids’ self esteem a little bit more, and helping them grow as a person.”
Judd also played a big role in bringing the Flag Football Championship to Charleston, which will be played at O’Brien Field on Saturday July 24th. The final postseason game of the season will be played at O’Brien Field.