YULEE, Fla. – The ground where Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry learned the game of football as a youngster is due for an upgrade.
On a muddy field overrun with dollar weed, Jaguars cornerback Aaron Colvin, the Jaguars Foundation and Nassau County officials combined to announce a $100,000 grant from the Foundation toward the renovation of the Yulee Sports Complex.
The renovation includes an update of the existing youth football field with improved drainage, and the installation of new sod and drainage features on an all-purpose field, making it useful for youth football leagues.
Jaguars cornerback Aaron Colvin, who is staying around Jacksonville in the offseason to train with teammates, said that the fields remind him of his childhood in Nashville, Tennessee.
"This is where the true heart is, this is playing the game as a kid," Colvin said. "There's no worries, it's really just coming out here and having fun. Back in the day when you could actually really hit, just playing 'bull in the ring' type stuff, it just brings back a lot of memories."
The funds from the Jaguars Foundation originated through the NFL Foundation's Youth Football Field Grant program, and are matched by an additional $400,000-plus from Nassau County for the entire project.
"I believe that local residents need to know that organizations like the NFL and Jaguars contribute to the local counties in a positive fashion," Nassau County director of facilities maintenance/parks and recreation Bob Knott said.
"The County of Nassau will be able to attract more youth football players to its facility because of the extra field while also making the playing surface of the existing field safer and more playable during inclement weather."
The updated complex will include upgraded fields, bleacher seating and a new concession stand to service the new football field and an existing softball field.
"Just talking to different people around here, for them to have only one football field is kind of sad," Colvin said. "Being able to build two new fields and just really being able to see how happy the community is, it's a huge plus."
Knott added that approximately 100 Yulee-area children were turned away from youth sports last year, including football and baseball, due to space constraints. Yulee did not have a youth soccer program, but with these enhancements the city could have the ability to field one in the future.
For the Jaguars, improving fields around the Jacksonville area is vital to the growth of the game.
"We want to make sure there's an NFL and youth football 20 to 25 years from now, so we start with the youth," Jaguars community relations manager Renzo Sheppard said following the check presentation.
The Yulee project is the 12th field the Jaguars Foundation and the NFL's Youth Football Program have renovated in the greater Jacksonville area.
Nassau County officials expect the renovations to be complete in 90 to 120 days.