PEORIA, Ill. — The first week of summer football practice has a different kind of feel to it at Peoria High this year.
The numbers are up. So is the excitement level.
“We’re teaching kids to put helmets on for the first time,” said head coach Tim Thornton. “We’ve got guys that have never played football.”
The buzz around the Lions is being fueled by the football equipment company Riddell. Peoria High was chosen by the company as “Team of the Future” based on the “progressive way the team plays and practices.”
The Lions toured the Riddell facility outside Chicago and met former star QB Peyton Manning earlier in the spring and will be outfitted with new head gear and equipment later in the summer.
“Everywhere I go, with my dad’s friends, they know about what happened at Peoria even if they are from Washington or Dunlap,” said Lions quarterback Gabe Hernandez. “Everyone knows what happened to Peoria High. It’s a blessing they did that for us.”
The Lions had over 100 players out for the first day of summer practice Monday, according to Thornton.
“Anytime you get to go up (to Chicago) and meet people like Peyton Manning, this was amazing,” said receiver Kaevion Mack. “There are a lot of people that are happy for us. It’s a great buzz and it’s good to have a buzz. It encourages us to work even harder than we’re working.
When Riddell came to Peoria to shoot a commercial with Peoria High, Mack was glad to be a part of it. He thinks this benefits more than just the Lions.
“Being from Peoria, you don’t normally get a lot of attention. When you get things like that, obviously you’re doing something right,” Mack said. “I’m happy with is. It’s shining a light on Peoria, all Peoria schools not just us.”