Syracuse is welcoming a new football organization, and a current Fulton resident is behind the team’s creation.
Leroy Collins Jr. is co-owner of the Syracuse Strong, a team that will compete in the Empire Football League.
According to a press release from the team, the Syracuse Strong is a non-profit football organization that prides itself on excellence, commitment, and dedication.
Collins said the team will be very much involved with the community and he’s set lofty goals for the future of the team.
“We want to be more than just football,” said Collins, who co-owns the team with Chris Gorman.
Included in the team’s community outreach will be football camps and leadership workshops for kids. Collins added that the team plans to work in the future with notable charities such as the United Way and Habitat for Humanity.
Along with helping the community, Collins said he wanted to get back into football for the love of the game and to give local players the opportunity to excel at it.
“These guys have a lot of talent. There’s a lot of people locally who don’t even know of their skill,” Collins said.
Currently, the team is looking to cut its roster from approximately 120 players to 55 by the season opener on July 11 at the league’s defending champion, the Plattsburgh North Stars.
Along with Plattsburgh, the EFL also includes the Glens Falls Greenjackets, Glove Cities Colonials, Sussex Stags, and the Watertown Red and Black.
The Strong’s home field will be at Nottingham High School, and the team’s home opener will be on July 18 against Glove Cities.
The regular season in the six-team league lasts through the end of September, followed by playoffs.
Collins has even bigger goals for his team, and they stem from his personal football background.
He attended Alfred State College. In two years, he gained 1,880 yards on 198 carries and scored 25 touchdowns. He was inducted into the Alfred State Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006.
He transferred to Louisville and entered the 1999 NFL Draft but went undrafted as a running back. Collins eventually linked on with the Washington Redskins and then the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad.
But after his time with those teams, Collins said he almost had nowhere to go for his career.
“When I went to Jacksonville it was like I had to start all over and get my legs back under me,” he said.
In 2014, the Fall Experimental Football League (FXFL) was founded. The league is attempting to be a professional minor football league for the NFL.
Collins said he’s hoping in the future, even in just a few years, the Syracuse Strong could be a potential market for an NFL minor league city, much like the Syracuse Chiefs and Syracuse Crunch are for baseball and hockey, respectively.
“That’s my vision and ultimate goal, to run one of those,” Collins said. “I always wished back then that there was a league that I could go to and play and stay in shape.
“Baseball has it. Hockey has it. Basketball has it. I always wondered why football doesn’t,” he added.
For more information about the team, sponsorships, or in-kind donations for the nonprofit organization, contact Leroy Collins at LCollins@SyracuseStrong. co m or at (315) 254-4799.
See www.empire-football-league.com for more details.