Steamboat Springs The Doak Walker Youth Football League has become so popular there is a waiting list just to get in.
As the league wrapped up its season for third- to sixth-graders, league commissioner Kevin Lorimer said it had its most successful year to date with 108 players. This year's numbers are a huge increase from the 16 players who started the league just four years ago.
But even with the increase in numbers, Lorimer said the program did not have enough funding to support all the kids interested in playing. For the past few years, the league has had a waiting list, which is filled on a first-come, first-served basis.
This year's league had four tackle teams for the fifth- to sixth-graders and three flag teams for third- to fourth-graders. Throughout the season, the flag teams played during halftime of Steamboat Springs High School football games and both teams played on the Ski Town Fields.
The program also has a high school buddy program that sets up the youth players with a senior buddy on the Sailors football team for an entire practice.
"I think for Steamboat there is so many different directions kids can go," Lorimer said. "We want to build a positive football environment."
Steamboat Springs seventh-grade football coach Doug Baker has seen a great difference in recent years in players coming from the Doak Walker program.
"They actually know how to put their uniforms on when I get them," Baker said jokingly.
On a more serious note, Baker, who has coached the team for nine years, said players coming from the program have already learned the fundamentals of tackling, blocking and handing off passes.
"In the last two or three years, there has been a marked improvement with the kids," he said. "Anything they know before the seventh-grade program, that is a plus."
Lorimer said he is looking to expand the league to 115 kids next year. However, because the league provides equipment for its players and has a budget, growth is limited.
Lorimer also plans to make other changes, such as incorporating an end-of-year tournament for the tackle team. The tournament, Lorimer said, could include other youth football leagues from Craig, Hayden and Meeker.
In a joint effort to honor Doak Walker's memory, Skeeter Walker and Lorimer founded the league. Last spring, Skeeter Walker passed away.
"Every year has gotten better and better," Lorimer said. "I wish Skeeter was around to see this year. She loved to come out and see everybody."