by Tamara Brown, recruit757
Westfield guard Blake Francis ended his senior season averaging 19.6 ppg for Group 6A state champs and served as a huge offensive threat throughout the season, including their late run against Woodside in the state semi-final. Francis graduated from Westfield in June and will pursue his basketball career at Massanutten Military Academy.
His father, Carl Francis, is the Director of Communications for the National Football League Players Association, returned home on Saturday for the 20th anniversary of the Hampton Roads Youth Foundation.
“It’s been great to come back and say I’ve been doing this for 20 years giving back to this community is incredible. I never thought in a million years that the first year we started this that we would be back in 20 years but it’s only because the community has embraced us. The kids have been overwhelmed with being here and coming back and I just feel good that we can still be here 20 years later being connected to the community,” Francis said.
Carl Francis, along another fellow HR native, Vernon Lee, founded the Hampton Roads Youth non-profit to adhere to the community and provide the youth with the opportunity to build and define their football skills and be in an environment that will carry a positive vibe with them upon leaving.
This year, Francis and Lee, invited ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith to be a guest for Saturday’s camp and he provided them with a plethora of knowledge for their lives off the field that could be detrimental to their futures.
“I’ve known Carl for years and I’ve known Mike Tomlin for years and we all know how long I go back with AI [Allen Iverson] and he’s from this area so anytime they call me I’m there as long as I have the time. I made time today and I’m happy I did it. I always speak from the heart. Its incredibly important that when people look at you and know that you’re coming from there particularly when you’re speaking to the youth. There’s always something different to talk about, think about to do and when you have them in front of you you have to really grab hold of them and make sure you send them a message that will resignate because you want to impact their lives,” said ESPN Personality, Stephen A. Smith.
John Amos, primarily known as an actor from Good Times, was another guest speaker at the camp of over 250 athletes.
“Friends, friends who care about young people in the 757 and friends who care about growing and developing young people and that’s really it to be honest with you. I know a lot of people but that’s not really what it’s about. I wouldn’t invite everybody back here to speak to my young kids in the 757. It’s only because I brought people here who care, who believe in the mission and who want to achieve the same things I want to in helping change and develop young people’s lives,” Francis added.