Last year, Somerville got itself a semi-professional football team: The Somerville Rampage. They’re a new entry into the New England Football League, the largest semi-pro football league in the country. And they’re already championship winners; in their inaugural season, they were the league’s North Atlantic Conference Champions. We sat down with Rampage co-founder Kevin Prophete so we could get some fast facts on this football team.
THEY’RE SOMERVILLE BORN AND BRED.
“It started with four of us,” says Prophete. “We grew up in Somerville, played Somerville High School football.” Those founding four went their separate ways after high school—Prophete attended technical school, two joined the military—but eventually returned to the area and joined the nearby Charlestown Townies—the oldest semi-pro team in the country.
The Townies were the closest option for semi-pro ball, but, “We had terrible, terrible seasons. I think, in five years, we won maybe four games, five games,” Prophete laughs. “It just kind of felt like, why not represent where we’re from?”
THEY MISS WHAT FOOTBALL USED TO MEAN TO THE CITY.
To be sure, there are still plenty of people in the city who want to play football and who care about the game. But Prophete says he thinks the appreciation for the sport isn’t the same as it used to be, especially at the high school level. “When we were growing up … that Friday night before a game, it meant something to walk around the halls wearing your jersey. People almost looked up to you as a football player.” He doesn’t get that feeling when it comes to Somerville High School football anymore. “It seems like the love for the game has kind of faded … the kids lose that push to try harder.”
“To see kids that are going into high school talk about, ‘I don’t want to go to Somerville High, I’d rather go to Everett, I have a better chance of winning there,’ it’s bad,” he adds.
FOOTBALL CAN BE A PATH TO SELF IMPROVEMENT.
Prophete had a handful of classmates who graduated from high school around the same time he did—‘04 or ‘05—who ended up getting into drugs or alcohol. He says that there were two guys specifically who had fallen into a pattern of drug abuse until they found support in the Rampage organization. “Their fans would come to games—it literally saved their life,” Prophete says. Having two practices and a game each week gave them something to look forward to and something to work for. He calls that turnaround “unexpected” but adds that it’s everything he loves about football.
“There is hope,” he says. “You can get back into sports and leave that life behind.”
THIS IS A “GLASS-HALF-FULL” GROUP OF GUYS.
The Rampage are here to help keep the dream of college or professional football alive for high school players who might still want to play. “That was the real reason [for founding the team]: to give kids that hope,” Prophete explains. It’s an unpaid league, so high school graduates can stay in the area and play for the Rampage while they attend community college and accumulate game film that they can eventually submit to universities.
IT’S FOR THE KIDS.
This will be Prophete’s eighth season coaching youth football, which he sees as an important team- and community-building endeavor. “When [kids are] growing up together, and they’re playing together, they build chemistry when they go into high school together,” he says. “That’s what’s going to feed our high school system.
The city announced at the end of last year that Somerville Recreation would switch from full-contact football to flag football in its youth programs. But Prophete and co. plan to continue supporting and funding a youth program—the Somerville Junior Rampage—for youth who want to play tackle ball.
SAFETY COMES FIRST.
Prophete knows that parents are concerned about the wellbeing of their young athletes, and he’s aware of the heightened focus on concussions. Helmet technology has gotten better, but as awareness has gone up, so too have concussion rates.
“Safety is always our number one concern,” Prophete says, especially when it comes to the youth they’ll be coaching. The Rampage have worked with Cambridge Health Alliance and are now collaborating with a facility in Woburn that does impact testing. Every kid they coach will have brain scans that they can keep on a flash drive. In case an injury does occur, parents can take the drive to the hospital and compare the results against a new scan. “The hope is to give parents that peace of mind,” he adds. “We care about your kid.”
THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT.
Last year was the Rampage’s inaugural season, and they took home the NEFL’s North Atlantic Conference championship. “To me, it didn’t really mean much, as an individual, but now we have something to show everybody else in Somerville,” Prophete says. “This is what you can achieve. And if you want to win, you’ve gotta put in the hard work to do so.”
Prophete envisions a future where the Rampage organization— both the semi-pro team itself and the youth they’re working with—are a part of the fabric of Somerville’s athletic community.
“It feels good to know that, hey, we’re going to be working with these kids, and they’re going to feel like they’re part of something bigger than they are,” he says.