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'It's about history. It's about culture': Juice Bowl returns for Thanksgiving 2021

Organizer Waddell Elliott said the Thanksgiving Day football game has been around for about 70 years.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Nothing says Thanksgiving like football before eating a hearty plate of food. That’s why people in Louisville anticipate the annual Juice Bowl every year, which Organizer Waddell Elliott said has been around for about 70 years.

“Everybody loves the Juice Bowl,” Elliott said. “It’s what it’s about – sportsmanship. It’s about history. It’s about culture.”

Waddell said it’s important to instill that history into the young players so they can have pride in the rich tradition and learn valuable lessons on and off the field.

“Football’s like life,” Waddell said. “When things get tough, you’ve got to grin and bear and get it done, and you can’t quit.”

Things did get tough five years ago after a deadly shooting at Shawnee Park near the games. Two people were killed and five others were injured.

Waddell said that tragedy shouldn't cloud the bright spot that is the Juice Bowl, especially in light of the city breaking its record for homicides just this week.

"There’s a lot more positive than there is negative. You’re always going to have – I don’t care where you’re are - you’re going to have negative,” Waddell said. “By the grace of God, if we can continue to do what we’re doing, we can make a difference.”

In fact, Elliott is already training his predecessor, co-organizer Robert Martin.

“Coach Waddell coached me,” Martin said. “It’s big taking on this role, but at the same time, I feel like it’s needed. We give them examples. We can talk ‘til we’re blue in the face, but I can actually tell this kid, ‘hey, I did that. I did this. I played here and now I’m organizing it so you can play here.”

WHAS11 spoke to some young players who said they’re learning those valuable lessons, but they’re having a lot of fun too.

“I just want to see the grown-ups get hit,” Jaden said, laughing.

Despite his grooming, Martin said he doesn’t see Elliot retiring anytime soon.

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