On most days, Corey Pratt works at an insurance company.
But on the weekend, he works on a football field, as one of the coaches of the nationally-recognized Naperville Patriots – a youth football team comprised of 8th graders from Naperville and its surrounding cities.
“All these players are like my sons,” said Pratt. “I love them to death.”
And the feeling is mutual.
“He’s a great, encouraging coach and he means a lot to me,” said Christian Sampleton, a wide receiver for the team.
In fact, when you speak with many of these players, the theme of family comes up a lot.
“The coaches are like second, third fathers to me,” said lineman Devonte Dunn.
“I love all these guys like they’re my brothers,” said quarterback Jack Bastable.
“It’s my first year, and right from the beginning I could tell it was like a family,” said Sampleton.
Not a bad family, considering all the winning they’re doing.
Even though the Patriots are a relatively young program – ten years, in fact – they’ve still achieved an amazing amount of success. That includes four national titles, and their current streak of 22 consecutive wins.
In a few weeks, the Patriots will travel to Kissimmee, Florida and compete for their second consecutive national title.
“The team started to get a lot of national exposure after we started winning national titles,” said Patriots head coach Doug DiFusco. He’s been at the helm of the program for nine of the program’s 10 years. “After the first one … [and] second one, it got very well-known nationally.”
In their last regular season game of this year, the Patriots faced a larger and older team – the freshman squad for a local high school. But they were no match for the Patriots.
The team produces talent that goes on to excel at area high schools, and some even come back to coach the current squad.
“[The coaches] taught me that what you do on the field also applies to life,” said Bobby McMillen – now a sophomore linebacker at Naperville Central High School. “That inspired me to come by and help the eighth grade team now, and show them what I was taught when I was [on the team].”
“You couldn’t be prouder to see them nationally, every year, be at the top of the national charts,” said DiFusco.
“Out of all the football teams I’ve played with, this is my favorite team,” said Dunn.
And with all the camaraderie and winning, it’s easy to see why.
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