For semi-pros, it’s all about the love of the game

By JeffGraveline

For most, the dream of playing organized football ends when the final whistle blows at the last game of their high school career. For a lucky few, the dream continues a little longer as they play at the college level, and even fewer achieve the

ultimate dream of making it to the pros.

For those whose dream is cut short but still want to play the sport they love, there is semi-pro.

In Chicago, one group of players has been building teams, winning championships and fostering a sense of community for the past 19 years.

Drawing players from across the Chicago area, the Chicago Falcons have built a strong base going into their 20th year.

“When I saw there was a team in the neighborhood, I came out and gave it a look,” said 22-year-old Daryal Weaver, co-captain of the Chicago Falcons. “I made a few friends and they’re nice people.  This is a nice organization to be in at this moment.”

As the Falcons embark on their latest season, new faces dot the roster and a new sense of pride has taken to the field at Michele Clark High School, where the team practices.

“We’ve had a lot of improvement from last year,” said Marlon Hamlin, a 28-year-old T-shirt factory worker, who has played with the Falcons for four years. “We have some key returners from last year and we have a lot of new faces. We’re all here for the love of the game, though. I could play [this game] anytime.”

Playing for the Falcons is a major time and monetary commitment for players.

While the Falcons only practice three days a week, coach Tom Robinson said that is generally more time than most other semi-pro teams put in on the practice field.

Players also pay their own way while playing for the Falcons and are not paid, Robinson said. Members of the team supply their own equipment and must contribute $100 to the team fund each season. This must be paid in full, either up front or in increments that a player can manage.

Though the Falcons lost their first game against the Chicago Fire Department 38-20, Robinson said the game truly showed just how young his team is this year.

With only a handful of returnees from last year and a team still learning both the playbook and each other, the Falcons surrendered 30 points in the opening quarter and fumbled four times during the game.

However, Robinson said his team has learned from the game and will continue to learn throughout the summer as the march toward the league championship game at the end of the summer continues.

Although the team is focused on the product it puts on the gridiron, there is more to the Falcons than just football. The team often reaches out to the community, participating in community service events while not practicing.

Team members took part in St. Baldric’s Day in Naperville, Ill. Participants shaved their heads to raise money for cancer research and the benefit raised more than $120,000. The team also organized a blood drive, which took place on April 10.

“[On April 10], we gathered up 86 people to donate blood to the Heartland Community Blood Center in Naperville,” Robinson said. “That was real good, the guys are always willing to participate in

community activities.”

Along with community service, Robinson also teaches his players how to coach, so that they can eventually teach the game to future generations.

“We put a lot of guys out there that are coaching now,” Robinson said. “We taught them the game and we felt we taught them the game the way it’s supposed to be played. They’re out there now teaching the youth … We’ve got about 40 guys out there now coaching.”

As the future takes shape on the practice field, the Falcons continue to work for this season and beyond, while building team chemistry and a bond with the community they play in.

The Chicago Falcons play Sundays during the summer across Illinois. For more information on the Falcons, visit