Sterling, Va. — In the fall of 2018, for the first time in its 43-year history, Park View High School did not field a varsity football team. But just a year later – with the help of actress and Park View alumnus Hilarie Burton and assistance from the NFLPA – Park View will field a varsity team of nearly 50 players, with another 20 on the freshmen team.
Burton – who is most famous for her appearance on the shows One Tree Hill and White Collar – graduated from Park View in 2000. During her years at Park View, the Patriots went to the VHSL State championship game in football two years in a row. Unfortunately, due to a boom in the creation of new high schools in the county, Park View football has fallen into some harder times; the climax of the downturn came in 2018 when just 18 players showed up for varsity football tryouts. Many of them had never played football before. The team was forced to cancel its varsity season and field only a JV team. Seniors who still wanted to play were given the option to transfer to fellow Sterling school Dominion.
All of this caught the attention of Burton, who sought to come back and see what was really going on.
“I heard some rumors about Park View, and I wanted to see them with my own eyes before I believed them,” Burton said. “I’m really glad I did, because Park View is a beautiful, vibrant, diverse community.”
Burton made her first appearance back at her old high school in the fall of 2018, shortly after the varsity football cancellation announcement was made. She pledged to come back and help out the school in whatever way she could.
Park View is a Title 1 school, meaning that a large percentage of the kids at Park View come from low-income families. Burton’s first action when she heard that some kids were dissuaded from playing because of financial issues was to cover all the players cost for two summer training camps.
I heard some rumors about Park View, and I wanted to see them with my own eyes before I believed them. I’m really glad I did, because Park View is a beautiful, vibrant, diverse community.
The second major thing that Burton did during the 2018-2019 school year was create a nonprofit organization called Project Patriot. Project Patriot provides a place for alumni or local businesses to donate money for the needs of all athletic and extracurricular clubs in the school.
All of this was a step in the right direction, and Burton’s continued activism caught the attention of local lawyer, Ibrahim Moiz. It was during his campaign for Sterling District Supervisor that he met Park View principal Kirk Dolson and saw the need for a strong voice for Sterling on the Board of Supervisors.
“One of the issues I highlighted was the lack of attention that was being paid to the Sterling District and even within the district to the park and its schools,” Moiz said. “The football program was an area that I knew needed some type of private-public or public-public partnership.”
Moiz was the main catalyst in getting the NFL Players Association involved. The NFLPA has been one of Moiz’s clients since 2010.
“I saw Hilarie’s tweet about the team needing cleats earlier this month and made a call to the NFLPA and asked if this was something they could assist with and gave them some background about the school and the district’s story,” Moiz said. “Within 24 hours, they got back to me and confirmed that they would pay for the cleats for the players.”
“We were motivated by everything that Hilarie is doing at Project Patriot and taking a closer look at the needs to build this high school football program,” NFLPA business development manager Cary Grossart said. “We support all active NFL players, and we saw this as an opportunity to possibly support our future players.”
The total contribution from the NFLPA was $10,000, which included brand new Nike Alpha football cleats for every single Park View football player.
We support all active NFL players, and we saw this as an opportunity to possibly support our future players.
Burton organized a merchandise fundraiser for Project Patriot which raised over $15,000 for the athletic program and extracurricular activities. She also reached out to local businesses Buffalo Wing Factory, who is hosting a spirit night where a portion of the sales will go to the athletic department, and Play-to-Win, who covered the cost of the football team attending a spring 7-on-7 camp.
All of this would’ve fallen useless however, if it had not been for the Park View coaches initiative to recruit their own hallways. Whether it was offering morning and afternoon lifting sessions for players who had after-school jobs or installing old school Madden games in the coach’s office for players to use, head coach Josh Wild focused on changing the culture of the program: or as they call it, “Changing the View.”
“The number one thing to this point has been the act of building relationships,” said Wild, who is also a P.E. teacher at the school. “I have spent most of my planning periods in the lunch rooms and visiting the middle school lunch room as well. I also try to be as present in the hallways as possible. Football is a relationship type of business, and now that we have recently filled our staff, we have some ideas we will be deploying to strengthen our relationship base.”
Football is a relationship type of business, and now that we have recently filled our staff, we have some ideas we will be deploying to strengthen our relationship base.
On August 29, Park View held a ceremony celebrating all the funds that had been raised for the school. Former Redskins running back Clinton Portis was in attendance and helped reveal the new cleats the players were being given.
“My advice is to enjoy it,” Portis said to the football team. “You don’t realize it now, but you’ll look back on these years. Enjoy this moment.”
At the end of the day, for Burton, this is all about giving the student-athletes at Park View an opportunity to compete just like every other athlete around the county.
“You see what happens when we remove the economic roadblocks?,” Burton said. “When the adults in the room showed up, the kids showed up.”