Preston Brown and Justin Gilmore collaborate with school district to put on historic event
By David Yarger
On Friday night, Buffalo Bills linebacker Preston Brown and Niagara-Wheatfield grad, Justin Gilmore were in attendance at the Falcons' football game in Clarence. The two have helped impact Niagara-Wheatfield football in a positive way this season, collaborating with the school district and booster club to put on N-W's first-ever Friday night football game.
Brown's cooperation ties in with his new foundation, "Preston's Playbook," which focuses on doing good deeds for the Western New York community.
"The biggest thing is to just give back," Brown said. "They've (Western New York) taken me in well since I've been here, this four years, so, I just wanna show my support to the area."
The night game is slated to be a fun day of activities, with Falcon Fest for students starting at 2 p.m. and then pregame festivities beginning at 6 p.m. The Falcons will honor their senior football players and cheerleaders and also begin the weekend celebration of homecoming.
Gilmore said to help the school put on this event means a lot to him.
"They're my alum and they've fallen on hard times... The past five years they haven't had budget financial support, players had to buy their jerseys and things like that. When I got wind of it, I told Preston what was going on and he reached out like 'hey, I got this idea, let's do something in the community, I'm established in the NFL so now lets branch on and make sure we impact the people, specifically kids.'
"He's really passionate about kids, so I told Preston this is a cool idea and he was with it to give these kids a cool experience," Gilmore said.
"It's something they're going to remember for a long time," Brown said. "My dad grew up in high school and he didn't have lights on the field, they played home games at 3:30 p.m. Being able to play Friday night lights is a great experience, so I can't wait to see those guys and know that they're gonna have a great performance under the lights."
Brown added, the process was simple and once he heard the idea from Gilmore he immediately said yes.
Gilmore and Brown met in college at Louisville playing football and remained friends ever since.
"We had a core group of friends and we're fortunate that everyone has become super talented," Gilmore said. "Devante Parker of the Dolphins, Marcus Smith with the Seahawks, Preston and Senorise Perry of the Dolphins is our main friend group and we've just stayed together. When we're able to get together and support one another it's a super big blessing."
Brown went and surprised the Falcons earlier in the week after a practice, answering questions and giving tidbits of information to the N-W program.
"If you saw a professional football player, that's a rare occurrence. So, to come up there and speak a couple words of wisdom to those guys and if anything sticks it was worth it. To go out there, answer all the questions and be around those guys, it was fun for me too," Brown said.
The night game and giving back is something that is really close to Gilmore, being a graduate from Niagara-Wheatfield.
"It's really cool. I've done camps in the past and events to raise money for charities in the special needs community and of course, Preston has always supported those things and been at the forefront of why they happen and how they happen. I want people to know how fortunate we are to have somebody like this in the community who kids can see on TV and I want them to know that he's a real person and he's working within the community. People can work with us and know what type of quality person he is,"
Gilmore added although he played a small part in the process, he feels he should do what he can for kids.
Coach Russ Nixon praised what the duo has done in collaboration with the school and booster clubs.
"They're both class act individuals," Nixon said. "Justin showing his love for Niagara-Wheatfield and the game of football and Preston paying it forward like that, to remember where he came from in high school football and give back to those youth programs and high school programs like this; just class act individuals, absolutely. We couldn't be more thankful for the support from Preston and we're very fortunate that we have Justin associated with our program and he's able to help us out and set these awesome things up for us."
The Falcons' historic game is versus undefeated Williamsville North and N-W needs a win to end their regular season and possibly clinch a playoff berth. The homecoming game starts at 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 13 at Terry Harvey Field. The team hopes the community, fans, alumni and students all attend the event and flood the stands by wearing red clothing as part of the themes for the game, "Red Out" and "N-W Falcon's light up the night."