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Anyone familiar with Snoop Dogg knows what he's passionate about. Much like millions of other Americans—he's simply addicted. He started when he was young and today, even at the age of 43, it remains a part of his day-to-day life. Are there people in this country who are against it? Yes. Are there health risks associated with it? Sure. Are there folks out there fearful of their children getting caught up in it at too early of an age? Certainly. But even through all of the controversy, nothing has stopped Snoop from dedicating a large part of his existence to spreading it all around America.
I'm talking, of course, about football.
AOL and Snoopadelic Films announced yesterday the creation of a new original video series directed by and starring the Doggfather, which will focus on his work as a coach in the SYFL—Snoop Youth Football League. Now in its 11th year, the Snoop Youth Football League serves low-income youth between the ages of five and thirteen, and has helped propel several players—including Denver Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman and Kansas City Chiefs RB De'Anthony Thomas—to the NFL. Debuting later this year, the eight episode series will follow SYFL players and coaches as they travel across the country to compete against rival teams.
We caught up with Snoop Dogg at AOL’s Future Front event at Pier 36 in New York to ask him about coaching youth football, the effect of head injuries, and his reaction as a Steelers fan to Michael Vick taking over as the team's starting QB.
Interview by Maurice Peebles (@tallmaurice).
A lot of people know you as a youth football coach. What will this series teach us that people don’t already know?
It will show people that I’m more than a football coach, that I’m a life coach, that I’m a counselor, teacher, mentor, inspirator, motivator, father, friend, disciplinarian—I’m all of the above. You’ll get a chance to see...my coaching technique, my style, the way I handle certain kids—certain kids are delicate, certain kids are aggressive, certain kids can handle words, certain kids can’t handle words...you’ll just see the diversity of me as a coach and me as a man.
[the kids] taught me how to be me. Because they’re real. Sometimes in the music industry and the movie industry it’s fake.
You’ve been doing this 11 years, from your perspective, what do you think are some of the main issues plaguing these young men of color? What are the main things they have to get over in order to be successful and how does your [league] help them?
I think the success factor is—it's not taught early. We’re not taught to be successful and how to be successful as far as when we get money and how to stay out of trouble. How not to go back to the hood and do things that we progressively graduated from. Like, our mind state is messed up. My youth football league and the way that we teach, we teach them to go on another path. To make it, succeed, and not get in trouble when you make it, and to go as far as you can go.
Obviously you’re teaching a lot to the kids—what have the kids taught you? That’s 11 years dealing with kids growing all the way up.
Taught me how to be a better man, better father, listener—they taught me how to be me. Because they’re real. Sometimes in the music industry and the movie industry it’s fake, but when you’re dealing with the kids and their lifestyle and their upbringing and you’re a part of their lives, you see the payoff when they go to high school and they go to college and their mothers are saying this is the first person in my family to ever go to college. You [get] the benefits from that. Plus they still call me "coach" to this day. That’s the most important thing that I can get out of it, that they still call me “coach”.
A photo posted by snoopdogg (@snoopdogg) on Sep 20, 2015 at 7:41pm PDT
It’s funny I saw Ronnie Hillman—he scored yesterday. I know you said that you’re looking to get more kids in the NFL...is that a goal? Do you expect to see a lot more of these kids go to the NFL?
Oh yeah. Oh yeah. That’s what it is. I mean, the goal is reachable now. We got kids playing in the NFL now who come back and see them and let them know that they can achieve their goals. That inspiration is so up close and personal. And not only the kids that are in the SYFL but the kids that are in the NFL that love me and respect me they always come back and give insight to the kids in my league to let them know that they can make it.
What do you expect to see from this league 10 years down the line from now?
We’ll be like Poly High School. We’ll have the most kids in the NFL.
I’m just being real with you.
Poly High School has the most kids in the NFL of any high school. Period. And that’s the high school I come from, Long Beach Poly High School. And I just feel like the Snoop Youth Football League is gonna do that times two because we’re in Texas, we’re in Colorado, Northern California, and Southern California. That gives us regions beyond just one section of the world. And once it gets to Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, DC, New York—it’s gonna get everywhere and you can’t stop it.
Southern Cali has a lot of talent, Texas has the talent, Florida has a hell of a lot of talent...are those the markets you’re looking to go to because you know the kids have that desire?
Well we played a game against Florida. We played against [Uncle] Luke, Benny Blaze, Mike Alstott, Flo Rida brought three teams to California two years ago...so we’ve been clashing with Florida for a long time earning that respect and letting [our] boys play against them on a football field at a high level. I just feel like in the next five years we’ll be in every state that’s a football state.
There's a lot of talk from the NFL down in terms of head injuries. Have you seen any slowdown with parents letting their kids play? Have you seen anything first-hand that you think would give parents a pause to putting kids in it or has it been sort of the same from your perspective?
I see more coaches in the hood and the inner cities getting USA Heads Up certified now. So they learn how to teach it better. I believe a lot of that was taught the wrong way. When I played football we was taught the wrong way. We was taught to spear and all that [laughs]. You know what I’m saying? Cause that’s just what came with the game and as the game progressed you learned a little bit about how to play it more fundamentally correct. And as a coach it’s my job to make sure all the coaches are USA Heads Up certified and know the right way to teach it and to compliment the kids when they hit the right way and telling them when they hit the wrong way.
To that point, I see coaches jump up and down when the kid hits him the wrong way because it’s “a good hit.” Gotta find that distance between—
And that’s what it is. You don’t wanna discourage the kid [for delivering] a great hit, but the way the rules are now a great hit is only from [your chest] to [your waist]. Because if you go [low] that’s a bad hit because if it’s a quarterback—look at Ben Roethlisberger. They hit him late, broke his leg and he’s out four to six weeks. Tom Brady a couple years ago the same incident. It’s like you can’t hit them [low] and you can’t hit them [high], so your target range is basically from [the top of your chest] to [the waist]. Which is good but sometimes the compromise in position puts you in a position to hit [high] or [low], and there’s like nothing you can do.
That’s what I hear from a lot of defensive players now. There’s too many rules and regulations—
It is. Defense is aggression. Now it’s like you want us to play offensive now.
In my opinion, eventually we’ll get to a game where there’s less hitting just to keep the game playable. It’s gonna be hard for people to put their kids in as [doctors] start coming out with facts and stuff later on down the line.
I just think we gotta make sure that we fundamentally coach them up before they get to high school. So that way it makes the high school coach’s job easier, then when they get to college his job’s easier, then when they get to the NFL they already know the routine. Starts from the bottom.
I’ll end on this. You brought up Ben Roethlisberger—I know you’re a Steelers fan. When Mike Vick first got signed to the Steelers, I got emails from a lot of middle America types who are not into Michael Vick [because of] dog fighting. Wanted to get your perspective. What would you say to people who are still hesitant about Vick and what is your opinion on Vick leading your favorite team?
I love Vick. Before he got to the Steelers. I loved him when he caught the case, [and] after he caught the case. Mistakes are made to be made. I mean, he did his time. What y’all gonna do—hold it over his head forever? It’s over with. He’s been punished, he’s been banned from the league, he came back, he's on the good foot, he ain’t been around dogs, he ain’t do nothing like that. He’s been about the positivity and that’s what’s wrong with people, we always judge people about what we did as opposed to what we’re doing. I love him to death whether he’s a Steeler or not. He’s a friend of mine.
Michael Vick keep on keepin’ on. I’m glad you’re in the quarterback position for us now to lead us until Ben comes back, so prove ‘em wrong and go to work and do what you do.