While youth sports programs have significantly boosted their screening systems in recent years to keep out would-be coaches who have criminal backgrounds, a Florida football league was publicly embarrassed this week by a more unusual scam: A 21-year-old convicted burglar registered and played as a 14-year-old boy.
How does an adult sign up as a child?
“We’ve got 4,000 kids and we’re all volunteers,” said Scott Levinson, president of the Tampa Bay Youth Football League. “We have the requirements in place and we’re always re-evaluating, but you can’t background check a child – and as far as we knew, he was a child.”
Police say Julious Threatts’ hoax was uncovered when he tried to register at a local middle school. He was charged with trespassing on school grounds, obstruction by a disguised person and violation of his probation for his burglary conviction in 2009.
By that time, the 5’11”, 160-pound Threatts had already played in one game for the Town ’N Country Packers under the name Chad Jordan.
The youthful-looking man had joined even though the league requires a birth certificate or passport to verify age, and the presence of a parent or guardian to fill out and sign paperwork, Levinson said. He said Threatts was accompanied by a brother who posed as a guardian, and they presented a false birth certificate. Threatts told people that his parents had died and his brother was raising him.
If it’s any consolation to Tampa Bay, Threatts did the same thing last year, playing for the now-defunct West Coast Youth Football Conference, also in Florida.
This year, Threatts’ coach grew suspicious for several reasons, found someone from “Chad Jordan’s” neighborhood who knew his real name and went to Threatt’s Facebook page, which lists the name of his mother. At one point, league officials sat the young man down and asked if he was lying about his identity and age; he stuck to his story.
It is not unheard of for older youth to provide false information to play in younger leagues, usually so they can excel. One of the most famous cases involved Danny Almonte, whose dominating pitching led his Brooklyn baseball team deep into the 2001 Little League World Series before it was revealed he was actually 14, two years older than the maximum age allowed for the league.
Pop Warner Little Scholars, which organizes youth football, cheer and dance programs around the country, has a registration process similar to that of the Tampa Bay league. Josh Pruce, director of scholastics and media relations for the national office, said he’s never heard of an incident like this happening on a Pop Warner team.
“Thank God we caught him and thank God no one got hurt,” Levinson said.
So far, it appears that Threatts joined the team only to play ball. His Facebook page cites football as one of his likes, and a Twitter feed on July 26 read, “just got home. Had a good practice today! Can’t wait till tomorrow.”