SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) -- The football coaches of the Central State 8 wanted to make a gesture of unity as the country wrestles with a multitude of issues.

A video? No, not enough nuance or depth. A statement? That's not it, either.

So they created an event, "life-on-life" as folks in ministry say, where students, coaches and law enforcement could come together in real life for a range of discussions from race and societal pain to favorite junk foods and the college football teams they cheer for.

Thus, the first Central State 8 Football Unity Summit was born under the leadership of Springfield High's Roy Gully, MacArthur's Derek Spates, Sacred Heart-Griffin's Ken Leonard, Rochester's Derek Leonard and FCA's Kevin Elliott and Bryan McKenzie.

Nine schools sent three players and at least one coach, with the group meeting at O'Shea Builders in Springfield -- the company that also provided dinner in addition to the meeting space.

MacArthur's Derek Spates and Springfield High's Roy Gully shared their experiences growing up as black men, Southeast basketball great Herm Senor II shared his perspective of faith, and Springfield assistant chief Ken Scarlette spoke to the group and held a Q&A session to field concerns from players and coaches. WAND's Gordon Voit emceed the event.

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