Boulevard Collective: SMU Football Finds Community on the Field

Story by Jennie Trejo and Angelica Villa. Photos by Nathan Ryan.

A partnership between Boulevard Collective and the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas led to a first-of-its-kind event last month, where 25 Southern Methodist University football players served as guest coaches to over 50 kids on local youth teams.

“The SMU student-athletes could not have been more positive about spending time with the youth programs at YMCA,” says Chris Shoemann, Executive Director of Boulevard Collective. “They helped to create a very special night for the young people who look to them as role models.”

The athletes present are a part of Boulevard Collective, which was formed in 2022 in response to the NCAA’s rule change regarding NIL (name, image, and likeness). Chris shared that the Collective works with SMU alums and supporters to enhance the brands of student-athletes, SMU Athletics, and the greater Dallas-Ft. Worth communities.

“We seek to leverage their NIL and promote their brand with opportunities that allow them to give back to their community,” says Chris. “That’s why the partnership with the YMCA was a natural union.”

Nick Echtemkamp, District Executive Director of YMCA Metro Dallas, said the YMCA’s mission is to implement programs that build a healthy mind, body, and spirit for every kid in the community. However, they are the only youth sports provider in the area, so they lean on partnerships– such as this new one with the Boulevard Collective– to make that happen.

“To have a partner like SMU engage in the development and growth of our kids is just a great thing all around,” says Nick.

SMU Quarterback Preston Stone was one of the athletes running drills and connecting with the youth teams at the event.

“I’m from Dallas, and I hold the city near my heart,” says Preston. “It’s a privilege to pour back into the community and make sure that these kids are having a great experience playing sports just like I did.”

While Preston moved around the metroplex throughout his childhood, he grew up coming to the Moody Family YMCA, the same location where the event was held.

“I remember being in their shoes, you know?” shares Preston. “I remember being a 9-year-old out here, playing for the pure joy of loving football. It’s great to see that in these young kids.”

Preston also shares that working with Boulevard Collective has been a positive experience so far because they have provided the athletes with various opportunities to volunteer and network. As far as his personal brand, Preston hopes that he can continue to portray his authenticity and love for the place he has always called home: Dallas.

Chris elaborated on this comment, saying that the Boulevard Collective surveys the student-athletes to find where their interests align with activities and partnerships, like the YMCA event.

“We hope to sustain the momentum and community focus we’ve developed over the last nine months,” says Chris. “We wish to continue our relationship with the YMCA of Metro Dallas, and we have also identified many future partners with which we would like to do good work in the community.”

Nick also confirmed that this is the first time YMCA has partnered with SMU football on this scale, and he is eager to see more of it in the future. They hope to expand the program beyond football drills and implement mentorship programs as well.

“We have had some small involvement where one or two players would come by on their own. But this is the first time the team has partnered and been a part of the community in this way,” Nick says. “Having the Saturday night stars here coaching is a great thing for these kids.”