Boxers representing the program's past, present and future come together for the Henry Thevenin Football Clinic at Marciano Stadium
BY Glen Farley
Brockton Enterprise Staff Writer
It was five years ago last Tuesday that Henry Thevenin succumbed to leukemia at the far-too-young age of 20.
But his memory lives to this day on the football field where he once starred.
Boxers representing the program's past, present and future gathered at Marciano Stadium on Saturday afternoon to take part in the second annual Henry Thevenin Football Clinic, an event founded by Thevenin's classmate (Brockton High School Class of 2009) and friend Zeyanna Defortunato.
"This was an idea that came to my heart when Henry was first sick," said Defortunato. "Now we're here, two years into the event, and look at it. There are kids all over the place. My heart's overwhelmed."
There was a multigenerational presence at the old stadium, kids 7 to 13 years of age kicking things off by taking instruction in a three-hour clinic that was free of charge (thanks to sponsors and donations) before the day concluded with an alumni game played by Boxers from yesteryear on their old stomping grounds.
"I love it," said Carlito Weaver, one of the event's coordinators. "You get to see the past, the present, the future Boxers come out."
One of the past Boxers being Weaver himself.
A high school classmate and teammate of Thevenin's, Weaver went on to play at Framingham State and the University of Massachusetts. His affiliation with Brockton High football has continued as an assistant on head coach Peter Colombo's staff.
"We have guys who were on the last championship team at Brockton, all the way back to 2006, to the kids who just graduated in the Class of 2016 here," noted Weaver.
Thevenin made his mark at Brockton High, developing into a standout two-way lineman who earned Enterprise All-Scholastic honors and was a captain on the 2008 team that participated in the Division 1 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium.
Thevenin went on to play a year at Connecticut's Suffield Academy, where he helped the Tigers win their second consecutive New England Prep Super Bowl championship before returning to his backyard to play at Stonehill College.
Six-foot-two and 270 pounds, Thevenin showed great promise as a freshman defensive tackle with the Skyhawks, registering 18 tackles in seven games before his career was halted by the disease that would ultimately claim his life.
To those who knew him, Thevenin's impact went far beyond the football field.
"Henry was such a joy," said classmate Meron Makonnen, another of the clinic's coordinators. "He was one of my very, very close friends. He just gave this joy to everybody he came in contact with. Whenever you talked to Henry, you felt like you were his best friend or you were his family. Everyone he came in contact with, he made their lives better."
With the theme of the clinic "no struggle, no progress" (as inscribed upon the T-shirts given to those taking part in the event), participants were put through a series of drills by some of the biggest names to have suited up for the Boxers over the year – all in the name of another standout whose life was cut short.
"This clinic is just a beautiful remembrance of him," said Jamal Johnson, a teammate of Thevenin's at Brockton and Stonehill who also served as one of the event's coordinators. "It's nice to have everybody come back together for a greater purpose, to give back to the community, give back to the youth of Brockton because they're the future. It's up to us to lead them and show them."
"It just makes me happy to see Henry's legacy bringing a positive influence to this city," said Makonnen. "There's a lot of negative things that happen here and a lot of times the positive things get overshadowed by them. But it's such a great way to show what Brockton is made out of, what the people of Brockton can do for the city, and even in his death Henry's still bringing positive change and positive events and bringing people together."
While the drills being taught may have football oriented, the idea was also to instill life lessons in participants not limited to conditioning and technique. Participants were told to do their school work and chores and to respect authority.
"If you look around, we're named the 'City of Champions,'" said Weaver, gazing at the sign by the Rocky Marciano statue outside the stadium. "Not because of who has played here, but the teams, the championship mentality. It's not necessarily about winning and losing. It's how you go about your everyday work. If you go in and put your best foot forward, you're going to be tired physically and emotionally, but it's about overcoming that and progressing."
Surely, the young man for whom the clinic is named would have been pleased.
"He would be extremely happy," said Weaver. "Growing up, we weren't fortunate to have opportunities to come together as a community, whether it be older kids coming back to mentor the next generation of student-athletes and young men and women of the city. So to see a bunch of players come back and give back, he would be thrilled."
"I'm pretty sure he's smiling down," said Johnson. "I know he's smiling down."
Glen Farley may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @GFarley_ent.