GAITHERSBURG, Md. (WDVM) – Every minute of exercise can have a positive impact, imagine what 480 minutes of week can do for kids.
That’s what 480 Club founder Joseph Hooks says is the goal of his work, to make a positive impact in the community through exercise and youth football.
“I’m prideful on creating opportunities for us young men, diverse, African American, whoever, to find things they love to give back to their community,” Hooks said.
Hooks grew up in Gaithersburg, playing football in the Montgomery Village Sports Association. He played high school football at Watkins Mill high school and college at Shepherd University.
In 2014, Hooks created 480 Club. The organization has an official business LLC branch, as well as a non profit section as well. Hooks uses the non profit for charity and to make a difference in the community with events like donating food to those in need and holding free youth football workouts and events, while the LLC has helped grow the youth football opportunities.
“They want you to listen, be good in school, get good grades and play football and just do right outside, don’t get in trouble, just think about football,” 11-year-old 480 Club participant Keondre Newman said.
Hooks said he is proud to give local kids the opportunities that he had growing up in MVSA.
“It was a safe space, it was structure. It was brotherhood,” Hooks said. “You got to connect with so many people. Football is like life, it didn’t only just teach you, but it revealed things, you know the toughness, perseverance, getting things done.”
While Hooks has created a foundation with 480 Club in Montgomery County, he says there is still work to do. Hooks says priorities are providing consistent programs in the county, transportation for those that don’t have it and can’t afford it and supporting communities of color.
“For the African American community, we need the support from county council, MCPS, Montgomery County recreation, to provide a safe space, training, programming, coaching, opportunities,” Hooks said. “To keep kids engaged interested in the sport, because every high school needs them to be more prepared coming into high school.”
Hooks likes to bring back former 480 Club and MVSA youth participants that are now playing proffesionally, in college or coaching, to speak to 480 Club kids and train them as well.
Adam McLean, a former standout for the University of Maryland and Quince Orchard high school and is currently a defensive lineman with the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League returned for a 480 Club session in July and pointed out the unity of it and impact that it was making.
“You hear everybody together standing one band, one sound, and these are youth kids,” McLean said. “It’s because they believe and they understand and they respect the fact that [Hooks] is willing to go the extra mile for them and when a kid sees that at that age, there’s no telling what a kid will do for somebody.”
Hooks continues to preach that mantra and pay it forward, hoping that his mentees will do the same.
“You don’t have to go to the NFL to give back, you can still be a part of the game,” Hooks said. “Make it a business, give back to kids and enjoy and give back the things that you had.”