Jim's Notebook: Reggie Swinton Makes Push For AAU Youth Football

by Jim Harris  on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 2:38 pm  

This story is from the archives of ArkansasSports360.com.

Reggie Swinton, the Little Rock Central product whose NFL career took him to such stops as Dallas and Detroit as a top return specialist and receiver, has taken over as Arkansas’ Amateur Athletic Union director for football. His first order of business will be to build a groundswell of support for AAU youth football (ages 7-12) that would include summer tournaments bringing any AAU clubs from around the country, a potential fall statewide league, and a post-season tournament that would send the state winners on to Orlando, Fla., for the AAU national championships in December.

An effort was started last year by Swinton’s longtime frends Leotis Harris Jr. and Byron Jenkins to start an AAU post-season tournament after all the youth leagues had completed their seasons, but little interest was shown — many programs didn’t know how this would effect their own league participation.

Swinton has solved one problem: he has his own AAU program for 7-8, 9-10 and 11-12 age groups: The Arkansas Lions. When we met earlier this week, Swinton was wearing an Arkansas Lions coaching shirt — it’s in the colors of Swinton’s old team, the Detroit Lions. Obviously he has an affinity for that classic NFL franchise.

He also has strong feelings for the current league setups around the state, such as the Central Arkansas Youth Football League and LifeChamps, which both sponsor 11-on-11 tackle football in those age groups. His son plays in the 9-10 division of CAYFL.

He says he has no intention of hurting those organizations to build up AAU. All can work together, he said.

That’s what Harris and Jenkins were hoping for last year, that the leagues would participate in the state AAU tournament and send a winner to Florida.

There are no plans for such an event this year, but Swinton is getting way ahead on 2013.

Here’s what is in store:

  • Saturday, Feb. 2: Tryouts for the AAU Arkansas Lions at D-I athletic facility on Highway 10 in Little Rock, from noon to 5 p.m. Essentially, it’s not a tryout but rather an evaluation as EVERY SIGNUP will be guaranteed a team on which to play. Swinton hopes for 200 youths in the three divisions to try out, and he will have A and B teams in the various divisions to accommodate everyone. The A team will be designated as his “travel” team. For more information on the registration, call Monica Simpson at (501) 396-9513.
  • Monday, March 18: Benefit golf tournament at Rebsamen Park Golf Course, with a mix-and-mingle event on March 17 with silent auction. Football celebrities who have told Swinton they will participate are Houston Nutt, Danny Nutt, Steve Atwater, Donald Driver, “Rocket” Ishmail, Kenoy Kennedy, Randal Williams, Flozell Adams, Corey Williams, Shaun Rogers, Shawn Andrews, Madre Hill, Darren Woodson and Bill Bates, former Hog basketball star Todd Day, and comedians Reggie Ballard and Joe Torry. For more information or to enter a team, call (501) 243-8572 and ask for Shauntae Swinton.
  • March 25, 26-April 9-10, 16-17: Six “spring practices” handled like an NFL “mini-camp,” Swinton said, to acclimate players to their teammates and the fundamentals.
  • June 17: The opening of “training camp,” again “running just like an NFL camp. “I’m seeking volunteer coaches who will coach each position on the team. These teams will be more coaches per player and will learn more and learn faster,” he said. “Our goal will be to have one-way kids, unless there’s a stud kid like a Basil Shabazz type.”
  • July 27: A weekend of games against an out-of-state travel team with more details to be announced. Last year, former NFL great Deion Sanders brought his Atlanta-based youth program to Little Rock Central’s Quigley-Cox Stadium on this weekend.
  • Aug. 3-4: The Arkansas Lions will participate in Atlanta in Deion Sanders’ AAU tournament.
  • Aug. 10-11: A Little Rock AAU national tournaments, based similar to the Real Deal on the Rock basketball event and using Little Rock School District fields. Teams from Houston and Dallas have committed, while programs in Tulsa, St. Louis, Memphis are discussing attending. The event would feature two games of pool play (one half of playing time equals a game) and championship round (full games). Every team would be guaranteed one full game. Cost per team will be $250.
  • A proposed AAU state tournament would be held in mid-November.

One of the major benefits to AAU membership, Swinton said, is that for $15 ($18 for the adult volunteer coaches) the players are covered by AAU’s cmprehensive insurance plan.

Harris, Jenkins, Clarence Finley Jr., Shauntea Swinton and former Razorback All-American Shawn Andrews are on the local football board, with Finley serving as president. Reggie’s wife, Patricia Swinton, heads up the dance and cheer portion of the program, which is another avenue where youths can get involved. C.J. McClain is among the former Hog players who have pledged to help coach, and Swinton said he’s hoping to add Broderick Green as well.

More information is available on the web at www.arkansasaau.org.

Email: jharris@abpg.com. Also follow Jim on Twitter @jimharris360



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