DEARBORN HEIGHTS — HYPE Athletics hosted a National Signing Day event on Wednesday, February 5, where 22 local high school students affiliated with the recreation center signed their letters of intent to play college football.
The high school football players were soon-to-be graduates from schools all over the Detroit metro area, receiving full scholarships to colleges that included Michigan State, University of Michigan, Northern Michigan University, University of Pittsburgh, Ferris State University and the University of Iowa.
Since its inception in 2001, HYPE has serviced thousands of youths across metro Detroit. In 2011, the organization opened a recreation center in Dearborn Heights allowing local athletes to participate in sports programs, training, leagues and tournaments. All 22 of the football players used HYPE during their off-seasons to sharpen their skills.
The organization seemed to have lived up to the meaning of its acronym after a gymnasium packed with family and friends of the scholarship recipients were starstruck by keynote speaker Mike Martin, defensive tackle for the Tennessee Titans.
Martin, a Michigan alum, is best known for helping lead the Wolverines to a Sugar Bowl victory during the 2011 college football season. At HYPE, he delivered a strong motivational message to the aspiring professional football players as he reflected on his past and the impact the sport has had on his life.
“You guys have gotten to this point by putting in the work. You guys have parents that love and care about you. You have to continue to make them proud. Football is more than a game and more than putting a jersey on on the weekend and paying and having a good time. It’s about the principles and the accountability,” Martin said.
CEO of HYPE Athletics Ali Sayed told the crowd that the most important influence in a young athlete’s life always comes back to family and friends. He applauded the crowd of parents for molding their children into becoming successful young athletes who are now ready for the adult world.
Sayed tells The Arab American News that the athletes have helped strengthen the organization’s football training program, which on an annual basis attracts 3,000-4,000 participants from across the state. Some have come as far out as Grand Rapids and Lansing. The organization also prides itself on attracting a diverse group of participants to the recreational center on a daily basis.
“We have an amazing support group at HYPE that has the capability of exposing talent and developing the skill sets needed to play at the next level. Our goal is to expose the kids to colleges and to recruiting officials. They are the top athletes of their graduating class,” Sayed said.
HYPE Community Relations Director Justin Cessante told the crowd that putting young athletes in the correct atmosphere will allow them to maximize on their talent and abilities.
“It takes a village to raise a child. Not only do we want to develop you in the athletic world, but we want to develop you to be productive people in society. We want these young men to sit up there and understand that God’s greatest gift to them was their talent, but their gift back to God is what they are going to do with it,” Cessante said.
Also in attendance was Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, who told the crowd that recreational centers such as HYPE are needed in the county’s neighborhoods because they help keep children off the streets and teach them about teamwork and diversity.
Meanwhile, the organization is looking to expand this year. HYPE will now be hosting a similar program for basketball training. In upcoming weeks, it will also be expanding its training facilities to allow for more extensive sports programs.