One SoCal youth track team was home to six NFL athletes

Photo: USA TODAY Sports

One SoCal youth track team was home to six NFL athletes


One SoCal youth track team was home to six NFL athletes


When a local youth sports league births a bona fide professional athlete, that pro often stands out as a beacon of hope for the program itself. The proof of this is everywhere, and a single successful pro can completely change the image of a youth association.

So what happens when a single track program helps develop six different future NFL players? That’s precisely what one Southern California program has accomplished, leading to questions about just how they did it.

As reported by the Buffalo News, the Cali Rising Stars youth track program, based in the Inland Empire an hour from Los Angeles, has helped develop six different future NFL players. Among the list are Bills wide receiver Victor Bolden Jr., Packers running back Jamaal Williams, Rams cornerback Dont’e Deayon, Titans defensive back Dane Cruikshank, Dolphins receiver Trenton Irwin and current free agent wide out Darren Andrews, who was formerly with the Patriots.

Incredibly, Zelda Bolden, Victor Bolden Jr.’s mother, said she hasn’t even been surprised at the remarkable run of success by the Cali Rising Stars crew.

“You could see something that was just different about this group,” Zelda Bolden told the News. “And we knew this. So did we push them a little bit harder? Yes. Did we demand a little bit more? Yes. Did we expect a little bit more? Absolutely. I believe because of that, we set the tone at a young age, they believed they could achieve any dream they wanted. And so the dream was the NFL. And look, they all made it. …

“I told them, and every coach on that team told them, absolutely you’re going to make it. Period. And so they all believed it, and look what happened.”

According to the News, a number of the Rising Stars athletes are currently on a text chain together and three — Deayon, Bolden and Williams — have joined together with the non-profit GoodEatz to use their status to give back to the community.

For now, all six have to remain completely focused on their football careers, or else they’re likely to disappear.

“I know that’s crazy,” Bolden Jr. told the News. “That’s something people would tell you would never happen, but the collection of hard work that we’ve been putting in since that age has gotten us to this point. A lot of people will tell you to surround yourself with like-minded people, and it works.”


More USA TODAY High School Sports