Bedford-Stuyvesant has just gotten its first semi-professional football league, thanks to one of its young residents, 30-year-old Tywan Anthony, who can’t seem to get enough of the pigskin and cleats.
Born and raised in Bed-Stuy, Anthony went to college in West Virginia and Kansas on a football scholarship.
After graduating, he then moved briefly to Georgia and then Florida before returning to Bed-Stuy where currently he works at Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation as a financial counselor and serves as the Small Business Liaison For City Councilmember Robert Cornegy.
But with all the moving around, there was one constant in his life: football.
“Football is something I have a passion for; this is something I love,” said Anthony, who started playing at around age 6.
At the time, football was a distraction for Anthony, a way to keep his mind off of his troubles after his mother passed away when he was 5. His grandmother sort of forced the sport upon him at the time, he said.
“Life got pretty hard for me after my mom died; that’s when things seemed to go downhill,” said Anthony. “A lot of people see football as a rough sport. But for me, it had become a mechanism for me to cope with a lot of things that have happened throughout my life.
“It was a way for me to get out what was inside… And then, I became pretty good at it!”
Anthony played through high school and college, and then went on to play a number of semi-pro leagues, moving from state to state.
“It’s something I can’t get out of my system. And I tell my girlfriend, I’m gonna play until I can’t play no more… ’till I have a busted knee, busted ankle, and I can’t walk,” he said laughing.
In New York, Anthony has played semi-pro for The Brooklyn Kings and The Brooklyn Bulldogs.
“Great teams, great organizations, but I felt they lacked structure,” said Anthony. “I thought, there really needs to be a league that has that college feel.”
So in 2013, Anthony decided to form Bed-Stuy’s own semi-professional league called The Bedford-Stuyvesant Crusaders, for Bed-Stuy residents ages 18 and over.
“It’s not just a football team; it is a community organization,” said Anthony. He wants to use the team, not only as a “brotherhood,” in the community and a way for those who love football to continually live out their football fanaticism, but also as a stepping stone into college for young men.
“A lot of kids graduate, a lot of great athletes from high school in football, basketball. But maybe their grades weren’t good enough to get recruited,” said Anthony. “I want to use the Bedford-Stuyvesant Crusaders as a mechanism to encourage young men to go back to school, get their education and maybe get financial assistance through a football scholarship.”
Already, the team has around 40 recruits– some young guys, but mostly men in their mid-30s or older. But Anthony wants the mix of older and young men, so that the older men can serve as mentors– both in the game and in life.
In fact, one of his team members used to be a high school counselor who specialized in college enrollment. Anthony has asked him to serve as the team’s “education consultant,” with the goal of getting as many young men as possible into a low-level college scholarship program.
Most semi-pro football teams have a $200-$300 registration fee. But all that a Crusaders will be responsible for is his shoulder pads and a helmet. The registration fee has been waived and paid for by private donors and other sponsors Anthony already has secured.
Their first practice is today, Wednesday, at 6:30pm at Von King Park, located at 670 Lafayette Avenue between Marcy and Tompkins.
“So if you’re interested in being on the team, just come on out in your cleats, t-shirt, shorts, and we’ll get all of your information right there,” said Anthony. “The first practice will be drills and seeing what positions people are comfortable playing.”
The team has four coaches. But Anthony will not be one of the coaches, he emphasized, laughing; he will be playing outside linebacker.
“We’re not just a bunch of over-the-hill guys coming to beat up on each other,” said Anthony. “These are experienced players, and we’re really trying to bring that community feel.”
Already, the team has been invited to take part in The Brooklyn Classic, where the top-four semi-pro teams in Brooklyn battle it out at South Shore High School, and the winning team receives a financial donation.
For most of his life, the game of football has been a healer for Anthony, a way out and a pathway to success. Now, he hopes to use the game to provide other young residents of Bed-Stuy those same opportunities.