Flag Football Game Unites Students, County Police
Students from Howard Community College’s (HCC) P.R.I.D.E. and Silas Craft Collegians programs were looking for victory when they took to the field November 18, 2018, against officers from the Howard County Police Department (HCPD) for the second annual flag football game. The students even had an advantage with retired NFL player Visanthe Shiancoe stepping in to join their team.
But the police officers proved to be tough opponents. They won the game by a single point and declared victory for the second year in a row.
“I enjoyed the competiveness of the game,” said Mahlon Umoh-Collier, a HCC student and member of the Howard P.R.I.D.E. program. “I really underestimated the HCPD. They came to play!”
Last year, Howard. P.R.I.D.E. was contacted by the local NAACP and HCPD to start a dialogue, said Geoffrey Colbert, associate director of P.R.I.D.E. The police department took part in a Diversity Week event at the college, and soon after, the program and police were on the basketball court for a friendly game and conversation. Next, they played football, creating the game now more commonly known as the “Turkey Bowl.” Officers and HCC knew they were onto something, Colbert said.
“We had a great opportunity to play a football game between the Howard County Police Department and students, which was a great opportunity for two groups to come together who are working toward the exact same goal,” said PFC Roberto Lopez. “I’m a resource officer for the neighborhood of Oakland Mills, and one of the things I love doing is being out on foot, going into neighborhoods, and speaking to as many people I can speak to. At this event, the kids get to know us, and it just helps to create that bond.”
“It breaks barriers of misunderstanding and showcases the things we have in common,” said Willie Flowers, president of the NAACP of Howard County. “The sportsmanship is good. It definitely creates the idea of a collaboration.”
“It’s priceless, it really is,” said Robert McConnell, NAACP Veteran Affairs. “Especially considering everything that’s going on in today’s time. To be able to have the officers share that time out of uniform and show members of the community that they’re human too, there’s just no price you can put on that.”
After two, 30-minute halves, the officers, students, and community members gathered for pizza and conversation. The pizza and game officials were paid for by the HCPD.
HCPD Captain Jim Marshall said the time spent eating and talking is invaluable.
“We learn that we all want the same things,” he said. “We want an inclusive community, and that what it’s about. So many times when people encounter us they’re either a victim or something unfortunate has happened. We want to have a positive introduction.”
Umoh-Collier said he appreciated the officers taking the time to play the game and getting to know him.
“I loved how the police officers took time out of their schedule to play football with the citizens they police,” he said. “It’s important because due to the current times that we are living in, police officers and citizens don’t usually have the chance to get to know each other on a personal level.”
Colbert said HCC students will be back to redeem themselves in 2019.
“We’ll be practicing,” he said.