Kevin Johnson wanted to play football so badly, he raised the money himself by cutting lawns and fundraising through his church.

“It was my dream to play football,” said the 11-year-old. “My brother inspired me. I watched his second championship game and ever since then, I wanted to follow in his footsteps.”

Kevin reached his dream this fall, when his mother, Natasha Johnson, took the money he earned and signed him up for Fort Hood’s Pop Warner tackle-football team, the Fort Hood Warriors.

Johnson said she chose this team, because of its military affiliations.

“They are willing to work with military families,” she said.

Maj. Malcolm Haynes, of 2nd Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, took over coaching responsibilities this year, after signing up his stepson and hearing about the need.

A lot of the kids are military dependents and about 85 percent are new to the game.

“Basically we have to teach them how to play football,” he said of the preparation leading up to their first game Aug. 31. “We’re teaching offense, defense, how to stand, how to hit someone properly without hurting yourself.”

As the only Pop Warner team in the area, many of the games are in Austin, and there are specific requirements the kids, ages 5 to 12 years old, must meet to be eligible to play.

Once school starts, players must maintain a 2.0 grade point average to be eligible to play.

The strict weight limits help keep the games safe, with fewer injuries reported than for soccer, Haynes said.

Practice can be hard, but the coach said he tries to keep it as fun as possible.

“For some, this will be their only contact with football and I want them to walk away with a positive experience about the game and learn a little bit about themselves,” Haynes said.

Fort Hood Warriors includes four, 20-kid teams, divided by age, and Haynes said they are still accepting players.

Johnson said she’s proud of Kevin reaching his dream to play football.

“It makes me feel good to see him on the field out there in a crew,” she said. “He’s ready for a game.”

Contact Rose L. Thayer at rthayer@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.

Rose L. Thayer is the military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. She joined the paper in February 2011 as a health and military reporter. View her complete profile Here.

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