For many high schools, football is a luxury they simply cannot afford.
However, Nissan Canada and the Canadian Football League plan to change that with a program called "Back in the Game" – a joint venture that will provide funding, equipment and field upgrades to 21 struggling high school football programs in 18 cities from Vancouver to Montreal.
"Our relationship (with the CFL) is really far more than just a sponsorship," said Steve Rhind, director of marketing for Nissan Canada, at the program launch on Wednesday. "We're fans of the game of football. And Nissan truly believes in the benefits football provides to children and teenagers … Football builds better people."
As part of the program, select teams will be featured in "webisodes" at backinthegame.ca that will culminate in a half-hour documentary detailing their upcoming autumn football seasons – from the joy of victory to the agony of defeat.
One of those featured high school teams is Edmonton's Eastglen Blue Devils.
"Many of our players come from lower socio-economic families who can not afford many of the luxuries afforded to other students in our city," said Blue Devils coach Kent Anderson. "Having the support of Nissan Canada and the CFL will allow our players to feel like they are equals and get them the tools to play the game more effectively."
"The CFL is more than just football," said league commissioner Mark Cohon. "With our partnership with Nissan … it's about building character, it's about building great Canadians – and the way you do that is through team sports."
Cohon's sentiments were echoed by Toronto Argonauts slotback Andre Durie. Durie played high school football in Mississauga, Ont., before starring for York University – where he set several rushing and scoring records. He turned professional with the Argos in 2007.
The "Back in the Game" program, Durie said, "gives (students) the opportunity to go after their dreams and play football and have the opportunity to be a professional player."
Nissan has been a sponsor of the CFL since 2007.
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