Public safety football team raises money for charity

Charlotte Cobras include several players from Concord

04/20/2012 12:00 AM

04/18/2012 10:00 AM

Pat McClaskey says there were three things about being a police officer he wanted to accomplish when he was pursuing his criminal justice degree in college, but not all of them dealt with fighting crime.

As a member of the Concord Police Department, McClaskey has achieved two of those objectives: working in the narcotics division, and being a member of the department’s SWAT team.

He admitted that a police officer featured on an episode of the “Cops” television show was his inspiration for his third goal. Four years ago McClaskey became a member of the Charlotte Cobras football team, which is made up of police officers, firefighters and other professional emergency personnel from the Charlotte area.

The team’s mission is twofold: to raise money for charity and to beat down its opponents along the way. The Cobras play in the National Public Safety Football League and are regularly in position to compete for its national championship.

Other players from Concord include police officers Kevin Berg and Pat Merritt and firefighter Carlos Rodriguez.

The team played its first games in 2006. McClaskey and Berg joined the next year. In 2008, the Cobras lost in the NPSFL Division II championship game in Bakersfield, Calif.

As part of their five-game regular-season schedule, the Cobras play two or three away games. This year, the Cobras were scheduled to fly to New York on April 21 and to Philadelphia June 9.

“Having 65 police officers and firefighters on a plane, the people feel really safe,” McClaskey said.

Charlotte’s Holy Trinity Catholic Middle School serves as the Cobras’ practice field. Their home games are played at various area high school fields.

They host Atlanta at 1 p.m. April 28 at Cornelius Hough High and the LAPD on May 19 at Rock Hill’s District 3 Stadium. At 40, McClaskey, who starts at left offensive tackle, is one of the older players on the team. He and Berg, a 33-year-old running back, are two of the team’s core players that have the most longevity.

Among their teammates is Charlotte firefighter Kemp Rasmussen, who played with the Carolina Panthers in the early 2000s. He played in the Panthers’ loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

“I have the privilege and the curse of going against (Rasmussen) every practice,” said McClaskey, who tips 285 pounds and stands 6-5. “He’s in incredible shape. … He’s probably one of best players in league. It gives you an appreciation for an NFL player.”

Like that of most of their teammates, McClaskey, Berg, and Merritt’s previous playing experience reached high school ball. Merritt, a 35-year-old linebacker, thinks the level of play is much more advanced than high school.

“Pat McClaskey and Merritt and I are all on the SWAT team here in Concord,” said Berg. “When it’s time for the fight, we’re going to do everything we can to win. You have a bunch of cops and firefighters and medics. It’s not in our job description to lose.”

The camaraderie the police officers and firefighters have with co-workers extends to the football field. It isn’t limited to their teammates.

Though their games are physical and competitive, the home teams welcome their opponents to town with an equal amount of respect, entertaining them with dinner after the games.

“For 60 minutes, they are our sworn enemies,” said Berg. “Then afterwards it’s great. We all have something in common.”

Proceeds from the Cobras ticket sales, concessions and souvenirs have supported various charities over the years. Last year, the Cobras raised $20,000. Some of the proceeds are designated to aid emergency personnel (and their families) who have special needs.

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