A Rebuilt Football Program at Thomas Jefferson

Richmond Times-Dispatch | Posted 1 month ago

Chad Hornik spent eight years as an assistant football coach at Douglas Freeman and Deep Run high schools. Each season, his team played Thomas Jefferson, and he got a glimpse of how the program had fallen into disarray.
Thomas Jefferson hadn’t won a game in four seasons. The uniforms were ratty, the lockers 40 years old, the weight room unsafe for use.
“I always said if I had the opportunity to be a head coach over at T.J.,” Hornik said, “I would try to change the world, so to speak.”
In the spring of 2012, that opportunity came, and Hornik was hired. He won his first game of the season that September and took the Vikings to the playoffs in 2013.
And in less than three years, he’s helped raise $175,000 to give the football team a complete makeover and help out other areas of the school in need.
Thomas Jefferson, in Richmond, needed more than a football coach. It needed a fundraiser.
Hornik knew how to do both. He owns the Melting Pot restaurant in western Henrico County and was familiar with making proposals and asking politicians to help.
“I knew it was going to take more than just coaching,” he said.
First, Hornik reached out to alumni. Albert Negrin, a 1976 graduate, has known Hornik for nearly 20 years through the Melting Pot. Together, they started the Tee Jay Vikings Fund, a 501c3 non profit organization.
“Without that, I don’t know how much of this I could have gotten done,” Hornik said.
The fund now has a board with 10 members, mostly alumni of the school and residents of the surrounding community.
“I haven’t done much for T.J. in my (38) years that I’ve been a graduate,” Negrin said. “But I wanted to do something more for the school and the community.
“I think that’s how everyone else feels. They want to do something for their alma mater.”
So they held fundraisers and asked for donations. The players sold raffle tickets at the Washington Redskins training camp and raised $10,000. The city gave the school $140,000, which was handed to the booster club.
The money was put to good use.
First came the uniforms, which cost $120 each for 50 sets. A new logo was designed with a more fearsome Viking, which was turned into a decal and placed on the helmets. They replaced lockers, painted the walls and installed new lights, which cost $35,000.
Renovating the weight room cost $75,000. Plus, a new washer and dryer were needed for the uniforms, and an irrigation system was purchased for the field at $20,000.
New benches were purchased for the sideline, costing $3,500. This week, construction continued on a new scoreboard at a cost of $25,000.
Cathy Haas, a member of the Junior League of Richmond, helped provide a snack for the players at every practice. The kids often had nothing to eat between lunch at 11 a.m. and dinner in the evening.
So with Haas’ help, every player got a healthy snack — often fruit or a protein bar — on each day of practice.
The reach of the Tee Jay Vikings Fund extends beyond football. The club recently built a new marquee near Malvern Avenue, bought new basketball uniforms, and provided a $250 scholarship for a recent graduate.
Hornik still has big plans. His hope is to replace the current grass field with artificial turf; add lights so the team can play at night; expand the bleachers; add new locker rooms under the bleachers; replace the baseball field; and relocate the track.
Altogether, the project would cost about $4 million. If the city will pay half, the Tee Jay Vikings Club will raise the other half, Hornik said.
If the project is completed, Thomas Jefferson would have the second artificial turf football field among public schools in the Richmond area. Huguenot High School will have the first when its new building opens next year.
While they are rare in Richmond, artificial turf fields at public high schools are common in Northern Virginia and Maryland. Part of the reason for installing turf, Hornik said, is that it requires much less upkeep than grass.
The rest of the amenities, however — suitable seating, lights, locker rooms adjacent to the field — are perks enjoyed by every football program in the surrounding counties. So much of what Hornik is trying to do will bring Thomas Jefferson’s program up to the level of other area schools.
“Nobody else in my 35 or 40 years has come forward to do what he’s done,” Negrin said. “Chad has a big heart.”

(804) 649-6109

Twitter: @EricKolenichRTD

Chad Hornik, head football coach at Thomas Jefferson High School in Richmond, led an effort to install newlockers for the team.

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