October 21, 2011
Above, a JFL game in the Knosher Bowl at Knox College; below right, Prairie Fire football player and JFL volunteer Daniel Johnson
At 5' 10", Daniel Johnson is a lot bigger than the football players on the Bears and the Packers, whose field positions he helps mark every Sunday afternoon. But these are the JFL Bears and Packers -- kids in grades three through six. And Johnson is a 235-pound junior defensive lineman, one of the many Knox College Prairie Fire football players who serve every week as volunteer officials for local Junior Football League contests.
The JFL games bring hundreds of the grade school players and their families to the Knosher Bowl and other Knox athletic facilities on Sunday afternoons through the championship on October 30.
Johnson, a junior from Chicago, worked the chains at one recent series of games. The support that Knox athletes provide for JFL is so strong that Johnson and his teammates help officiate all the JFL games at Knox and other locations around the area.
"The kids get to pretend like they're in college," Johnson says. "They're getting exposed to something they might do in the future."
In addition to daily practices and its own Midwest Conference games every other Saturday, Knox hosts JFL games every Sunday all fall. The opportunity for dozens of JFL games to play at Knox opened up in 2008 when Knox installed FieldTurf in the Knosher Bowl.
"The kids get a chance to play on a real college field," said Andy Gibbons, Prairie Fire football assistant coach and adjunct associate professor of sports studies. Gibbons and head football coach Chad Eisele both have sons in the JFL league that plays at Knox.