NFL Player, Alumnus Donate $1M to Beaver Local District

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio — The idea of “giving back” took on new meaning Tuesday when two Beaver Local High School graduates donated $1 million to the district for a new turf football field and other upgrades.

One of the those graduates is Denver Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe, class of 2008, and the other is Manhattan entrepreneur Jamin Pastore, class of 2001, who have formed a close-knit relationship which started on the Beavers’ football field.

Wolfe, who is heralded as the best run-stuffer in the NFL, was just 14 years old when his Beaver Local coach, Rich Wright, encouraged him to attend a football camp where Pastore was helping coach while on break from Duke University. Pastore, who had been valedictorian of his class and the only Columbiana County football player to have been a finalist for Mr. Football in Ohio, took the young Wolfe under his wing and began to push him not just athletically but academically.

During a press conference Tuesday to announce their donation, Wolfe said Pastore “has always believed in me, always made sure I stayed on the up and up. He’s the closest thing to a brother I have, and that started on the football field.”

Wolfe has in the past spoken about his sometimes troubled upbringing, including living in more than one home with different families, something he touched on with some of the students Tuesday during a “Derek Wolfe Day” celebration where he visited all grade levels. He assured students that, no matter how humble their beginnings, he is proof that hard work can result in dreams coming true.

As he looked out over the field where he played during high school, Wolfe told reporters, “A lot of people told me I couldn’t do it. I never thought I couldn’t do it. From the first time, I wanted to do it the rest of my life.”

Attending the check presentation were (from left) board of education president Jerry Barnett, superintendent Eric Lowe, Derek Wolfe, Jamin Pastore, treasurer Stacy Williams and head football coach Mike McKenzie.

After graduation, Wolfe attended Cincinnati University before starting with the Broncos.

Pastore followed his college career at JP Industrial Products headquartered in Lisbon, where he was promoted to CEO in 2007. Over the next two years, the company expanded nationally to become the one of the country’s largest PVC recycling operations. He now serves as president and CEO of JP Capital Management.

Throughout their individual successes, Pastore and Wolfe have continued their friendship and began talking about a way to give back to the school that had meant so much to both of them, they said.

“This is where it all started. This place needs (athletic) facilities to match the school,” Pastore said, referring to Beaver Local’s K-12 facility on Bell School Road built new seven years ago. They decided it was time to move forward with the project.

“The school needs it. The kids need it,” Pastore said. “The area and kids are not getting the opportunities they deserve. We said, ‘We need to do this,’ and that’s how it got kick-started.”

Admitting he is an “academic nut” as well as an athlete, Pastore said he hopes they can incorporate a scholarship program along with the athletic facility upgrades.

“We really want to give back to the area,” he said.

Wolfe agreed, saying, “When you have a school like this, that is beautiful like this, you need to have athletic facilities to match it.”

Superintendent Eric Lowe said the $1 million donation will allow the district to continue what began when the community supported building the new school, saying, “There has been significant upgrades educationally and athletically, but across the street (at the football stadium) needs attention.”

Attempts by the district to raise funding for upgrades to the facility have not been particularly successful, Lowe said, but this donation will allow for the new turf field that will benefit football, soccer, softball and baseball as well as for field days and community events.

Lowe’s assertion that the donation would also allow for a significant contribution for upgrades to the indoor facilities “still to be determined” raised Wolfe’s eyebrows as he questioned, “Still to be determined? It’s happening.”

Denver Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe spent most of the morning Tuesday posing and signing autographs at Beaver Local School during Derek Wolfe Day

Somewhat jokingly but with a serious gleam in his eye, Wolfe added, “This is my dream. I was supposed to give $25,000 and now I’m half a million deep. It’s going to be expensive, but it’s going to be worth it. If it even helps one kid, if even one kid gets a scholarship and goes on and does something great with his life and pays it forward, that’s one kid who gets the opportunity to succeed in life. Anything I can do, I will.”

Wolfe said he is “definitely going to help design it,” adding, “I’d like the field house named after me.”

What can be accomplished will depend upon how much the community buys into the project, according to Lowe, who said the ultimate goal is for the district to match the $1 million donation from Wolfe and Pastore.

“We have a good fundraising plan in place. We feel it’s a reasonable plan. With this significant donation and the partnership with the community, we feel it can be a reality,” Lowe said.

While the project would be completed in phases, Lowe predicted that, if everything goes as planned, the Beavers will be playing on the turf field by the coming fall season.

“Make it happen. This is going to be huge for the community,” Wolfe declared.

Head football coach Mike McKenzie greeted the news with enthusiasm, saying a turf field, particularly, is important.

“We end up with a lot of groin and ankle injuries because of the roughness (of the grass field). Having a solid playing surface will be huge for us. We’ll have facilities that match our school now,” McKenzie said.

Having a turf field for daily practices and knowing its condition each day will be a plus, he noted.

“No matter what the weather is, we’ll have a quality surface every day we can practice on,” he said.

Pastore agreed with the safety aspect, reminiscing that he “blew out” his knee his sophomore year due to the rough field, which meant a nine-month recuperation.

Wide receiver James Monte, who will be a junior this year and has played on the field since seventh grade, said he was “very excited” to hear about the proposed turf field, calling it a “great upgrade” due to the holes on the existing dirt field, which he said is often “terribly muddy,” resulting in him suffering ankle injuries in the past.

“I’m super happy to hear about the turf field,” Monte said.

Quarterback Tanner Johnston will be a senior this coming season and said the possibility of a turf field makes the prospect “even more exciting,” having sprained his ankles a few times on the existing field.

For Johnston, another exciting aspect is having a facility to make the community proud.

“It will be good for the community itself. Everybody will want to come to our games,” he said.

Jerry Barnett, president of the school board, called the donation “such a huge blessing,” adding, “We have a beautiful school, and now we’re adding a beautiful facility. We’ve all been very excited.”

It is “so generous for them to do this for where they came from,” he added, “It’s nice to see alumnus want to give back. I hope it sets a great example of how to give back.”

Pictured above: The Beaver Local football field holds many fond memories for (left) 2008 graduate Derek Wolfe, now a defensive end for the Denver Broncos and 2001 graduate Jamin Pastore, a successful entrepreneur. The men returned Tuesday to their old stomping grounds and donated $1 million for upgrading the facility.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.