Football league with a purpose

By John Kovach

Ray Marrow wants to develop good players and community role models.

YOUNGSTOWN — A new indoor football league is forming with the double mission of developing players of character and integrity who can serve as role models for youth, and improve the quality of lives in their communities.

The Indoor Developmental Football League, an 18-and-over circuit patterned after the Arena Football League but also with the enhanced social objective, will hold tryouts at the Creekside Golf Dome in Girard on Feb. 12 from 7:30-9:30 p.m., said organizer Ray Marrow.

Marrow, a 1989 graduate of South High where he played football for coach Ron Demesko, said the league will spend the rest of this year recruiting and developing players and building rosters so that it can launch play in the spring of 2011 at Creekside.

Marrow wants to begin with at least two teams of 22-player rosters — the Mahoning Valley Saints and the Mahoning Valley Glory — but hopes to have even more teams in place as word spreads about the league.

“We will be like the baby brother to the Mahoning Valley Thunder,” said Marrow, who also played college football for Fresno Junior College, Oklahoma State and Hayward State.

He knows there are a lot of young players and wants to reach as many of them as possible.

“We want to sell franchises to this league concept and spread it around Ohio, Pennsylvania and the nation, so that other communities can create this kind of league,” said Marrow.

He wants others to see the benefits of the combined football-youth development concept, and view it as a tool to help renovate communities.

“It will be a zero tolerance football league where players have to conduct themselves [in] the best possible way. Young people in the community will be looking up to these players,” said Marrow.

So, “We will be trying to keep them busy, to get them off the streets and keep them right and establish zero tolerance in the league.”

And, “We will be trying to get athletes to the next level,” meaning to colleges, semi-pro and even pro leagues.

Marrow comes from a family steeped in football, one of four brothers who played football at area high schools and college.

Like Ray, Brian and Duane Marrow, who also live in Youngstown and graduated from South, while Vince Marrow is a Cardinal Mooney graduate.

Brian is now football coach at Youngstown Christian High, while Vince coaches at Springfield High near Toledo.

Brian played for the University of Wisconsin while Vince played for the University of Toledo and in the NFL.

Vince served as a Toledo assistant coach before taking his current job at Springfield.

Duane followed Brian to Wisconsin where he suffered a knee injury as a senior that ended his career.

Ray said candidates for the Creekside league do not have to bring any special equipment to the tryout, only jerseys, trunks or pants and running shoes. “just general dress for workouts,” he pointed out.

“It will be 8-man football using Arena Football League rules that will be customized to the league,” said Marrow, who eventually hopes to convert the league from spring to fall play.

He wants to build a solid foundation for the league so that it has credibility and support in the community and can grow and spread.

“We will have workouts and fundraisers and a draft in September. We want to get the community involved and behind us. We also want to do clean-up the neighborhoods and do community work and get young people involved in doing positive things that improve their community,” explained Marrow.

“We want our players to spread education into communities and read books to young people, visit nursing homes and hopefully be involved in their church. We want to become involved with Boys and Girls Clubs.”

Marrow said he has some experience in training youth in athletics. He already has established a fitness training program for athletes at the Buckeye Elks Youth Center that operates year-round, and is open to young athletes who want to improve.”

Interested players can call Marrow (330-774-6635) or e-mail him at

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