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An Interview with GEFA's President - James Simerson

by Rich and Laura Lynch

The GEFA (Great Eastern Football Association) has been a fixture on the Global Gridiron since launching in 2005. They have grown to an impressive 17-team strong organization playing a unique variation of the game predominantly in Pennsylvania. Thus, their annual championship is called the Keystone Bowl. In our minds what makes GEFA stand out from the pack of other semi-pro and amateur leagues across the land is their visionary use of multi-media to promote organizational endeavors. We caught up with their inventive and enthusiastic President James Simerson to gain some critical insight into the GEFA.

GG: Hi James. So, you run the GEFA - the Great Eastern Football Association. How long have you been in existence?

JS: Since 2005. We started with two teams and we're now up to 17. We've been voted the number one semi pro 8 man league in the country the last four years.

GG: What's your history with the game of football and the GEFA?

JS: I started in the league in 2016 and became President in 2019. My brother actually got me into football. He was really good friends with Rocket Ismail and we would go to his games at Norte Dame. In first grade I started playing mini football. High School I played QB and Safety. Tied the state record at the time for most TDs in a game with 6. Had offers from Northwestern, Iowa, and Nebraska. A week before I was to commit to Northwestern I tore my ACL, had my hamstring detach and rolled up my leg amongst other things. Later went to the Navy Academy through the Marines and my high school coach helped me walk on to the football team where I played two seasons at WR/S. After being discharged I went back to coaching mini football and eventually HS. Took a long break from football to start a family when a buddy of mine who was playing in this league asked me to coach.

GG: As the President of GEFA, what are the common challenges you face and obstacles you have to overcome as each new GEFA season approaches?

JS: Staying ahead of the curve. Making sure we are offering players an experience that no other league can provide that solidify us as the league of choice.

GG: Your league offers an interesting version of the game - eight men a side on a shrunken outdoor field. Is your play closer to arena ball or pro style gridiron?

JS: We play 8 man with modified 11 man rules. Only thing we have in common with arena is our forward motion, field size, and defensive box.

GG: Do your players get involved in the circuit for the fun it offers, i.e, maybe they view it as an evolved level of intramural athletics. Or, are there advancement opportunities for them up the chain so to speak.

JS: In all our years we've had 25 players go to a pro level.

GG: Outside of the physical activity provided by the sport, in your opinion, what benefits do your players derive from being involved with the GEFA organization?

JS: Players benefit from the GEFA because they get covered like no other league. No other league interviews players like we do. Every year we do a free agent frenzy and cover where players decide to move next. The week leading up to the Keystone Bowl we do our media week where we interview everyone playing in the game. We have scouts watching our YouTube channel.

GG: How has your organization worked to grow the game of gridiron.

JS: We are a part of the Great American Football Alliance. I created that two years ago to try and get a national championship tournament and a true champion.

GG: Is there a moment of athleticism that took place on a GEFA field that still stands out in your memory today?

JS: Athleticism, nothing really jumps out there that really sticks. Gutsy performances, yes. Greg Medina from the Cyclones won Keystone Bowl 14 with a broken jaw suffered in the game.

GG: On average, what level of previous football experience do players on your rosters have?

JS: D3, HS... some D2.

GG: All eyes are on June 26, 2021 when Keystone Bowl X-Seven will be contested in Philispburg, Pennsylvania. Is this shaping up to be an historic event in GEFA history?

JS: We are an amateur, non profit football league. My goal is to provide a pro like atmosphere without the pay.

This will be like the Super Bowl on a budget. We have a lady who was a contestant on the voice singing the National Anthem, a dj, a live rock band playing at half time, the head referee will be wearing a head set for the first time in our history and the GEFA network will be live streaming it with a live concert afterwards.

Related Links: For more information on the GEFA and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - Great Eastern Football Association | GEFA YouTube Channel


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