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By Angelica Leicht
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By Sean Pendergast
By Sean Pendergast
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See our slideshow of the youth football league at work and at play.
The dark gray Chevy truck rolls backwards onto a fence-enclosed field, with grass the color of hay, in the heart of the Fifth Ward. Front doors open and seven kids pile out; once the hatch to the bed is unlatched, another eight practically pour onto the field.
"Shit, it's hot in there!" one says, wearing a sleeveless shirt, royal blue football pants and beads of sweat about his face. It's after 6 p.m., it's 94 degrees out and the back of the truck doesn't have air conditioning.
"Down!" shouts Carlos Honore, 32, the man driving the truck. The boy drops to the ground and begins doing push-ups.
"'N' word it's 20, if you curse it's 20," another boy explains. He's wearing a red shirt over his pads, with black football pants. He's carrying a gold helmet, with a black fleur-de-lis — the insignia of the New Orleans Saints.
These are the Fifth Ward Saints.
A second truck, this one bronze with a dented fender, pulls up outside the gate, and the five boys sitting in the bed hop out. The truck engine makes an ugly sputtering sound, stalls momentarily and then is off.
The group has grown to nearly 30, some arriving on foot. Many have a stretched-out or oversized T-shirt over their shoulder pads; a few wear jerseys. A couple have cleats, but most wear normal shoes. Football pants are common, but they range in colors: blue, white, black, light yellow, red and gold. With so little congruity, the group hardly looks like a team.
Carlos has the appearance of a former athlete: bald on top, with a hint of a goatee, wearing a gray sleeveless shirt showing his tattooed, muscular arms. The definition in his calves says there's still strength in his legs. A whistle hangs from a black cord around his neck. Standing five feet, 11 inches, he towers over everyone around him. None of the kids are more than 13 years old.
Beyond being a team shuttle, the bed of Carlos's truck also serves as the team's equipment room. He pulls out a bag of footballs and tosses it on the ground, and the boys swarm. He pulls out shoulder pads and helmets, distributing them to the kids who've gathered around him. He stops when a spindly boy with a shaved head approaches.
"Where's your birth certificate?" Carlos asks.
"I'll bring it Thursday," the boy responds.
"I need it before Thursday. Your momma home?"
"Yeah. But she don't have a car."
"I'll take you to get it."
"I live on the south side."
"If I take you, would you know how to get me there?"
"Okay, I'll take you home after practice."
Carlos hands the boy a set of pads and a helmet. "I need to get you a chin strap." As the boy jogs away, the helmet sways on his head.
While the coaches organize the kids to get practice started, Carlos's wife — Tatum, a tall, attractive woman, usually with a small boy clinging to her leg — has turned the hood of the truck into an office. White forms and manila folders are scattered across the metallic gray surface, head shots of the various players are stacked up and a black binder is open. The binder must be ready for Saturday, the first game of the new season — the teams' second in existence.
By the time everyone has showed up, it's almost 6:30 p.m. and more than 75 kids are on the field. Minutes after the boys have separated into the four age-specific teams (Pee Wee, Preps, Junior Varsity or Varsity), a fight starts outside the gate. One of the Pee Wee coaches and Carlos run over to break it up.
The players always get distracted when fights happen. Some start wandering toward the gate or lock their gaze on the fight mid-drill or when a coach is talking to the group. The coaches will only be so patient; they point to the fight and say that's the alternative.
Stay on the field, be a part of something, or go outside the gate and fight for nothing.
Driving the streets of the Fifth Ward in the middle of the day, the looks on many people's faces, as they sit on patios of dilapidated homes, at bus stops or walk down the street, say that something along the way didn't work out as hoped.
It's easy to dismiss the neighborhood as overrun with gangs, drugs, prostitution and poverty. They're a part of the Fifth Ward, but in speaking with the residents and cultural leaders in the predominantly African-American community, it's clear that there's more to this area in northeast Houston.
"Ten years ago, yes, it was a tough place to live; the Bloody Fifth some called it," says Dr. Albert Lemons, the principal at Atherton Elementary and a lifelong Fifth Ward resident. "[Today] it's an area with a variety of cultures, a variety of people; it's a safe environment for kids, it's no longer like it was back in the heyday."
Lemons, 65, was one of the early and primary community supporters of Carlos Honore and his football program. The Fifth Ward didn't have anything like what Carlos was proposing. Lemons introduced the coach to key people in the community, in hopes that others would recognize the contributions the Saints could make to kids and parents.
Well Well Well!!!!!! Them freshman almost pulled it off... We was a game short of the Big Dance.... Wow!!!!!! But,Maybe if our president would have been on his game @ had us a full house out there, Maybe we would have shine a little better... But its ok, Bc I take my hat off to Mr. Dewayne @ Mr. Watts for a wonderful year... U fellows keep up the good work.. Bc without u two together the Team aint Shit!!!!!!!!!
I personally know about this team and I think this article is so highly overrated I am a firm beliver that they exploited these children for their own personal gain. Trust me I am speaking from what I know not what I am reading in this article. Take it like you want but do your homework on this organization before you start opening up your wallets.
Tia: Have you spent much time around the team? Or do you "know about this team" from what you've heard? Maybe you're the one who needs to do your homework. I've been to multiple practices and games, I've spoken with parents and coaches and players, I've visited the Honores' home. Exploiting the kids for their own personal gain – are you kidding me?! If they're exploiting anyone, they're doing a lousy job, because they have little to show for it.
This was a wonderful story, I am so moved by the work Carlos & his family are doing for the children. I will do whatever I can to support them in their efforts. I don't live in fith ward but when I moved to Houston over 25 years ago, I attended church in that area. I will be donating whatever I can to help them continue their work. I will also keep them in prayer.
What a great story.I pray for you and your wife. I pray for yur continued success with your program.. You giveme hope and i will find a way to help
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Thank you for such an inspiring article. I will be contacting this amazing couple to see what type of help would be most beneficial for them and their young men.
To anyone who is interested in making a donation or contacting Carlos and Tatum Honore, you can email or give them a call:
Carlos Honore: email@example.com -- (852)545-8486
Let's keep it classy and only reach out to help or commend them. Please, nothing negative. Thanks for reading.
This is a great article and I definitely plan on looking into how to make a donation but even as a community we can only do so much. It is up to the kids and even more their parents to participate. I don't understand how many of these parents can't even do things when programs are there provided to them. I love what these people are doing and my God bless them with help and strength.
Awesome article. You should let us readers know how we can donate to the team. I know there are alot of readers who would be willing to do that. Good luck Saints!
Well done on a great article Chasen - real life - real people - making a real difference. Thanks for sharing their story it is very inspiring to know.
Great story, Chasen . What amazing people Carlos and Tatum are. What a different world this would be if we all would give an ounce of what they do.