NEW ORLEANS, La. – “Football coming to MLK High 2020,” that’s the goal.
This used to be the site of Alfred Lawless High School, a school that carried 900 students and a football program before Hurricane Katrina hit.
“I’m a product of the Lower 9th Ward and I saw what football did for this school. They had a good program going and they had a good feeder school. They had 4 or 5 feeder schools before Hurricane Katrina,” says MLK Charter Athletic Director James Mack.
Mack says the absence of football since Hurricane Katrina has not only impacted athletics, but enrollment as well.
“There is not that many (students) that live in the neighborhood. Those that live in the neighborhood, 75-80 % of them attend other schools because we don’t have football.”
Schools like McDonough 35, Edna Karr and Landry-Walker.
So to bring that football talent to Martin Luther King Jr. Charter High School, the administration hired Joseph Riley to lead the school’s first football program. Riley is a New Orleans football product that has already seen success with jump starting a football program at Lafayette Academy.
“I started the program from scratch there, so I had to totally build from ground zero at Lafayette from ordering helmets for the first time and teaching kids how to get in a stance. Kids knew absolutely nothing, and we started off slow the first couple of weeks and once kids got it we went to the game before the championship game before we lost as a first-year program,” says Joseph Riley.
It’s one thing to start a football program, it’s another to start one while dealing with a pandemic.
Martin Luther King Jr. Charter High School was aiming to start its football program in the fall, but since the COVID-19 outbreak, that timeline is being pushed back.
“Games are won between January and August. August to November is just the finished product. So that kind of hurt us when all of this went down because you have got to recruit your school first. You have got get kids to buy into school and what you are doing and then hopefully kids will put us as first choice on the OneApp when they see what we are doing,” added Riley.
For now, the school will be sending daily workout routines to students currently enrolled to see who is interested in joining the Martin Luther King Jr. Charter High School’s football team.
The team will have to play a junior varsity schedule its first year.
Those games will be played Thursday nights at Joe Brown Park.
Athletic Director, James Mack, says that the program is currently accepting donations to help cover any equipment costs.
For more information on how you can help, contact the school.