Lennie Holbrook never got an opportunity to play football after he graduated from Fleming-Neon High School in 1992. The 35-yearold Whitesburg native, who played center and tackle at Neon, wanted one more chance to play football. Holbrook recently decided that it may be too late for him to play football again, but realized he could coach and give other men like him a second chance to play the game he loves.
Last fall Holbrook, who lives in Wise, Va. and works at ACS, a Xerox company in Pikeville, started talking to men in Letcher and surrounding counties he thought would be interested in playing football. In November Holbrook formed a semi-professional football team, the Letcher County Wolves. The Wolves is one of 59 teams in the Alliance Football League. The Barbourville Bandits and the Pike County Knights are also new to the league this year.
“I wanted to give back to people that couldn’t play after high school,” said Holbrook. “There are a lot of talented players that didn’t get a chance to show it.”
So far 36 men have been coming to Saturday practices at the Whitesburg VFW field, and Holbrook said more can join the team until May 1.
Beginning in two weeks the Wolves will hold practices at the old FNHS football field. Holbrook entered into an agreement with the Letcher County Board of Education at its March board meeting to use the field for the team’s home games.
The Wolves’ first game is set for June 5 at Neon against the Knoxville Knights, which won the league championship last year.
Holbrook said about 1,000 fans are known to travel to away games to watch the Knights play. He said that could boost revenue for Letcher County restaurants, gas stations and hotels.
Matt Maggard, who played football at Whitesburg High School from 2000 to 2004, said 60 percent of the Wolves are from Letcher County and the rest are from Perry County. The youngest player on the team is 19-year-old Terry Tolson, who was graduated from Letcher County Central High School in 2008, and the oldest is 36-year-old Lenny Bates, who was graduated from WHS in 1992.
“I just love football,” said Maggard. “It gives us a chance to put the pads back on. I didn’t think I would get a chance to play football again.”
Dakota Brock, who played football at LCCHS from 2005 to 2008, will be the team’s starting quarterback.
Brock thinks people in the community will be excited to have a new football team.
“I believe Letcher County is a football county and everyone that loves football will come out and support us,” said Brock. “I’m sure they will love it and it will grow on them.”
Chad Gibson, of Neon, watched the Wolves practice March 27 and said he was impressed with what he saw.
“That ’s awesome to watch someone who has been out of school for eight years play football again,” said Gibson, who has several friends on the semi-pro team.
Gibson said many of the players have families to support and hold full-time jobs but are focusing free time on getting in shape and practicing football. He also noted that players do not get paid to play and are just playing football because they enjoy it.
“That shows how much people love football,” said Gibson.
Gibson said having a semi-pro team which plays games in the summer months will give local football fans a chance to watch football games during a time when football usually isn’t played in the county.
“I love to watch this and I will support it and help as much as I can,” he said. “I think it’s a good thing.”