John Fields was only 25 when he was killed in a tragic automobile accident in 2017.
Family members mourned for months, while wishing they could find a way to keep his memory alive.
Now they have done just that, in the form of the first John G. Fields Football Camp. The camp, which will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at New Castle High’s Taggart Stadium, already is a rousing success before any player even sets foot on the field.
Well over 100 youths from grades 3-12 from numerous school districts already have signed up. The $10 fee will go toward a scholarship for a senior football player from Fields’ New Castle alma mater.
Fields was a football and baseball player for the Red Hurricane prior to his 2010 graduation. The West Pittsburg resident was much-loved by his family members, who were devastated when his car ran into a concrete barrier near a tollbooth on Interstate 376 in North Beaver Township during a rainstorm early in the morning of July 1, 2017. The death was ruled accidental.
Fields’ sister, Ashley Fink, was living in West Virginia at the time and pregnant. She decided she wanted to be near family and moved back to the New Castle area after the accident.
“We just had such a hard time with it,” she said. “Johnny was a good guy, and it was so hard to accept that he was gone. Then one night I had a dream where he told me that it was important for us to do something for the kids. Football was the thing that he loved to do most, so it just clicked in.
“I ran it past my mom and dad and brother and sister and husband and they all got on board. It’s been a long process, but it has come together. It will be an emotional day, but in a good way because he would love that we were doing something for the kids.”
Fields’ brother Josh and sister Kayla joined forces with Ashley and her husband Jason and their mom Terri and father John, in planning the event.
Football coaches from near and far offered their help.
Neshannock head coach Fred Mozzocio will run the drills for the camp, with assists from New Castle head coach Joe Cowart and former college coach and Mahoningtown native Mark Mangino. Former Fields teammates Jared Fleo, Vince Pavia, Michael Razzano and Eris Angry all will volunteer at the camp.
Some of the camp’s other coaching participants are Ryan Firmi, Ron DePorzio, Frank Bongivengo Jr., Bill Humphrey, John Lambo, Pat Cain, Pat Minenok, Rick Sumner, former Farrell coach Jarrett Samuels, now an assistant at Thiel College, and Matt Zahm, who coached at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in Lancaster.
“The coaches that got to see him and be around him as a high school player are all very excited to honor Johnny,” Cowart said. “Personally, I think this is a great thing for our community, a great opportunity to see people rally around a family and a young man to remember how special he was. That’s what I love the most about the New Castle community, how people truly care for one another.
“I am honored to be a part of this camp,” he added, “and I know we coaches and the kids will work hard and have fun playing the greatest game in the world Saturday, just the way Johnny would have wanted it.”
Bongivengo, Fields’ high school coach, and members of the Fields family will speak to start the camp.
The camp will be separated by age groups and grade (grades 9-12, 5-8 and 3-4). The groups will go through extensive offensive and defensive football skills training, will work on physical fitness in “The Rack” and compete in combine testing (40-yard dash and Pro Shuttle), as well as competitive drills. Camp awards will be handed out to conclude the day. Campers also will receive free lunch and a T-shirt at the camp.
Donations of items like food, drinks and gift cards started poured in when Fields’ family announced the event.
“It means too much. I don’t think anyone who was asked to donate said no,” Ashley said. “Everybody who knew Johnny loved him.”
“I can just see him looking down and smiling from ear to ear watching this all come together. I think that knowing the good that will come out of it will help us heal.”
For information, contact Ashley Fink at (724) 301-2394.