Football: MPFL to bring youth football showcase to Brainerd

JJ Kern and the Midwest Premier Football League will be hosting a youth football showcase in the Brainerd Area July 23-25.

Area youth football players warm-up before a practice April 28, 2021, at Franklin Arts Center in Brainerd. Jeremy Millsop / Brainerd Dispatch

The football draft is coming to the Brainerd lakes area.

The Midwest Premier Football League is bringing its youth showcase and leagues to the area on July 23-25 with a practice, players combine, draft and game.

“What we’re doing with the MPFL we’re doing all-star showcase games,” Kern said. “We’re going to do one in the spring, summer, fall and winter. We did it in the Fargodome. We’re also looking at a couple of bigger venues.

“The summer one we’re hoping to bring to Brainerd, which will be a nice experience.”

Registration for the Brainerd event has already started. Those that competed in the Fargo Showcase last fall were able to register early. There will be a 9U, 11U, 13U and 14U leagues and it will be based on the child’s age at the time of the event.


“With this one, we’re going to be having a draft,” said Kern, who played at Central Lake College and started the Brainerd Lumberjacks semi-pro team. “On Friday all the kids come and we assess them and then the coaches quickly get together and pick the teams. Then we go to Whipple Beach and there will be a stage. The kids will come up and they’ll get their jersey and a hat. They won’t know what order they were picked in, but they’ll learn which team they’ll be playing on.”

The cost to register is $150 and includes a jersey, pants, socks and a hat. Practices will be held at Franklin Art Center and the games will be played at Brainerd High School.

Along with the summer Showcase, Kern is also offering tackle and non-contact practices. These practices will not be affiliated with the Brainerd Youth Athletic Association, but will also not be in competition with those events.

“We’re not about trying to take away from the local youth organizations,” Kern said. “We’re not trying to take away from BYAA or any organization in any area. My son is planning on playing in that league. So when they have their events in the morning, we’ll have ours at night and potentially three or four times out of the year, we’ll get some kids together and travel throughout the country.

“It’s not going to be a traditional league where we have an eight-game schedule. It’s going to be three or four weekends where we get some of the best players we know of and we’ll do all-star events”

The tackle events are open to players ages 7-14. The non-contact events will be for players 5-14.

“If a family wants to get involved in the Brainerd area, I will have volunteer practices. They can come when they can make it. For the all-star weekends, there will be a mandatory Friday practice and then we’ll take off for the weekend and play a couple of games. Other than that it will be voluntary. Once you’re involved in the program I post on the group who can make practice on this day or that day randomly throughout the summer.

“When the fall comes, we’ll adjust so that we don’t interfere with BYAA.”


Kern and a group of area athletes competed last fall in the Fargodome and the experience was memorable

Jayden Rogers of Staples said he joined the league because loves football and wants to be in the NFL someday.

“It was top notch and it was amazing and fun,” Rogers said. “It was hard, but I’ve learned how to play differently and play different positions and have had lots of fun.”

Gavyn Buchta-Blakemore said the Fargodome experience was exciting. He joined the league because he wanted to learn more about football

“I really want to play football and I want to grow up to be a football player and it’s just fun and a good learning experience,” he said. “I’ve learned how to tackle. I’ve learned how to run routes and my quarterback stance. I’ve also learned about some defense.”

Gunner Peters of Pequot Lakes said he enjoys the tackle aspect of the league.

“You don’t really get to play football a lot,” he said. “In our school, we do flag instead of tackle.”

Peters did his best salesmanship for the tackle leagues.


“If they like football and they want to learn and if they like to play tackle this will probably be for them,” Peters said.

Kern said he had more than 150 players representing seven states at the Fargodome last year. The games were broadcast live on the internet.

“We already have a foundation of some kids who I know can compete at the national level because we already have and I definitely have six or seven, especially in the 9U division that can play. I know, with a little bit of work, we have a 9U team that can compete with anyone. I’m very confident of that.

“But when I do events with the youth, people want to compete. They want to win, they want to do this and that. I really don’t care who wins or who scores the touchdowns. I care about two things, did they have fun and did they learn something. If they don’t have fun they won’t continue with it anyhow.”

For more information or to register contact Kern at 218-831-1400.

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or Follow on Twitter at

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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