BY DEB AND TIM SMITH
In talking with Pittsford resident Felix Joyner, you can’t help but be overwhelmed by his passion for giving back to the community. His 14-year professional football career began with the Kansas City Chiefs and led him down a circuitous path which found him playing both indoors and outdoors, in arenas all over the country, as well as in Canada and Europe.
But now he’s returned home with the goal of bringing as many sports opportunities as possible to the youth of Western New York and yes, there is also that side project. He is currently working on reviving the Rochester Kings arena football franchise which he operated from 2017-2019, but which, when Covid came calling in 2020, went dormant and remains in that status pending the comeback he is currently seeking.
Let’s rewind to the beginning for the story of this local athlete who, while he does have that 14-year pro football resume, has also been the victim of some very untimely injuries. After his high school career at Hilton, he went on to be a star running back at Buffalo State, where he graduated in 2005.
Joyner says he began the 2006 season looking forward to playing for the Kansas City Chiefs and coach Herm Edwards, the man who can currently be found on ESPN. Joyner recalls that Edwards had him slated to be the Chiefs #1 kick returner when he was sidelined with a hamstring injury.
Subsequent seasons saw him playing in the Canadian Football League, as well as the Indoor Football League – including playing under Thurman Thomas and Jim Kelly, and then Dave McCarthy and Bob Berkowitz with the Rochester Raiders. Joyner also represented team USA in the Euro-American Challenge which was held in Europe in 2012, then in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in 2013 and 2014.
In 2015, he was the 23rd player, and 3rd running back, drafted in the first round by Major League Football which had emerged as the preeminent spring league at the time. This scenario presented the potential to lead to a return to the NFL, but alas it was not to be. Once again an injury, this time a broken leg, cut short that opportunity.
Following that, Joyner turned his attention to operating the Rochester Kings arena league team which played its games at Bill Gray’s Regional Iceplex. “I actually founded the team, ran the team and,” said Felix, “gave up my football career to make sure my team was run correctly and successfully.”
He took a unique philosophy to this role as opposed to the other teams in the league, stocking his roster only with local Section V players. That local loyalty paid off for the most part with the 2016 and 2017 teams both enjoying undefeated regular seasons, but unfortunately losing in the championship game of the playoffs both years. Joyner was proud of the fact that many of his players on those teams went on to compete at higher levels such as the Canadian Football League.
In 2010 Joyner founded his FJ1 Company which is the organization through which he coordinates his local volunteer efforts. These efforts take various forms. There are free sports camps that are offered through various schools and municipalities throughout the area. He coordinates intramural leagues in activities including football, soccer, baseball and more. With that being said there’s more than just sports opportunities and programs through FJ1 sports.
Joyner has also set up a mentoring program to help at-risk youth. He has organized a network of mentors who are assigned to young people in need and there could be as many as 125 people benefitting from this program at any one given time. Former NFL players who have been involved in some of these programs include Maurice Jackson, Michael Vick and Joe Bock.
“You can’t save everyone,” Joyner said about these programs, “but you can always save a percentage and that’s my goal. If I can emerge from these endeavors knowing that I’ve made a positive difference in the lives of as many people as possible, that provides the sense of satisfaction that drives me.”
“I am partnered with the NFL, MLS, MLB and NHL for my youth sports league,” Felix told us and “you can direct people to my website fj1sports.com for youth leagues, sports training for all ages, and fitness training. People can also follow me on Millions.com.”
“Finally, on the personal end,” Felix said, “I am now focusing on my acting and modeling career.”
This whole interview process was a rewarding experience. It’s almost hard to convey the level of commitment exuded by Felix Joyner as he discusses his desire to give back to his community. The world is certainly a better place due to his passion.
He is represented locally by the Mary Therese Friel Modeling Agency here in Mendon.