Youth football coach channels his inner Coach Courtney to help North Memphis kids escape violence

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Chavis Daniels grew up in North Memphis. He knows gunfire kills dreams. As coach of a local youth football team, he saw it firsthand recently.

Two days before WREG met with him to talk about his youth football team and mentorship organization, 12-year-old Ta’shun Hardrick was killed less than a mile away from where they met.

Daniels used to coach Ta’shun.

“Around like 5:30, he was going to the store. And you know, a drive by shooting. Around 5:00/5:30 we’re at football practice,” Daniels said.

In 2011, Daniels and his teammates at Manassas High School were featured in the documentary Undefeated. The story focused on a troubled team that went from winning four games in 10 years to a winning team with the tools to conquer the world.

“If I said to you here’s a movie about a white coach and some black kids from a poor area you think you know what that movie is. But the reality is, is that I identify with the kids at Manassas from the way I grew up a lot more than I identify a lot more with my own kids reality,” said Courtney.

The documentary showed the good and the bad, but more importanly, it showed the growth.

“I watched him grow up. I watched him go from being a pain in the butt kid to a maturing kid to now a father who is mentoring literally hundreds of kids in North Memphis,” said Courtney. “I mean, how would you feel? Wouldn’t you be proud?”

Daniels is now a father of four. He’s also the founder and coach of the North Memphis Steelers.

“No other team in the inner city have more fathers on the sideline than the North Memphis Steelers,” he said.

“Why do you think that is?” asked Woolridge.

“I know the guys. They played with me here,” he said.

Most of the kids come from a single-parent home, which is the same story for Daniels. His mom made every game and when he needed someone else to talk to he had Coach Courtney.

“This is probably one of the biggest supporters I done ever had like still, til this day,” said Daniels.

“I’m not proud of me and what I did with him. I’m just proud of him,” said Courtney. “Of what he’s become.”

“We all talk about what’s the answer for the inner city? What’s the answer for the inner city? And governments spend billions of dollars on it and all the smart people will get on TV and talk about it,” former Manassas High School coach Bill Courtney told WREG’s Symone Woolridge. “And I’ll tell you what’s the answer for the inner city: it’s Chavis.”

Now Daniels channels his inner Coach Courtney. He said he takes the tools his coach taught him and teaches his boys the same values but in his own way.

“For every team that Chavis has, there is one less 12-year-old getting shot, there’s one less mother or grandmother at a funeral home, there’s one less tragedy in our city,” said Courtney. “For every single team Chavis coaches and the kids staying involved, there is one less of these sick stories in our city.”

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