ALTON - Two NFL stars will return to their hometown of Alton for the Mayor’s Charity and Fundraiser Ball next month.

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Michael FordMichael Ford and Ezekiel “Zeke” Elliott both spent their childhoods in Alton before going on to play football in college and, eventually, the NFL. They will be recognized with a Hometown Royalty Award at the Mayor’s Ball on Oct. 7.

“This year, we decided to feature our Hometown Royalty professional football athletes,” Sheila Goins, First Lady of Alton, said.

The Mayor’s Ball will raise funds for the Friends for David Goins organization and the Overnight Warming Center. This year’s theme is “A Night in Disguise,” a masquerade ball with a Mardi Gras twist. Music will be provided by Red and Black Brass Band and Premier Protainment Band featuring Danita Mumphard.

In addition to dinner and dancing, the program includes a Hometown Royalty Award. This tribute recognizes the success of people who were born and raised in Alton; last year, it went to former Secretary of State Jesse White. Ford and Zeke will both be honored this year.

Ford attended Marquette Catholic High School and played for the Explorers. After a great career with Southeast Missouri State University, he signed with the Detroit Lions in 2018. He also spent time with the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons before signing with the Cleveland Browns in March 2023. He currently plays as a cornerback for the Browns.

Ezekiel “Zeke” Elliott Zeke Elliott attended high school in Missouri and completed his senior year with 50 total touchdowns. He attended Ohio State University and immediately entered the NFL draft after three successful seasons with the Buckeyes. He started as a running back with the Dallas Cowboys in 2016 and stayed with them until signing with the New England Patriots a few weeks ago in August 2023.

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“It makes me feel good to be able to see him do something that he loves for a living,” said Dawn Elliott, Zeke’s mother. Because Zeke will be traveling during the Mayor’s Ball to prepare for a game on Oct. 8, Dawn will go to the ball in his place.

She added that Zeke has been playing football since he was 7. When he received a football scholarship to Ohio State, she encouraged him to enjoy playing but focus on his education so he could graduate with a degree and join the workforce. It wasn’t until a great run during his sophomore year that she realized he might move to the next level.

“It never dawned on me until then,” she said, adding, “I’m just honored to be able to stand in for him and honored that [Sheila Goins] even reached out to us and thought of him.”

Ford will be in attendance at the ball with his mother and fiance. He expressed his excitement to return to Alton and engage with community members, especially the younger kids.

“It means everything to me,” Ford said. “Growing up there, growing up in my situation, seeing those kids and those lesser fortunate households, and then to be allowed to be able to come back and show those kids the game…Just to come back and see the community, be a part of everything that’s going on, and just to show that I’m not just doing my own thing and I just forgot about those guys. To be able to come back, it means everything to me.”

Ford admitted that he hasn’t yet chosen what mask to wear for the masquerade ball, but he promised it would be “top-tier.” Dawn Elliott also noted that she’s excited for the chance to dress up and help out organizations in the community.

The Hometown Royalty Award means a lot to Ford. He added that he hopes his story will go beyond the ball and encourage other kids from Alton to work hard and pursue their passions.

“I just want them to continue to be great and just know there’s a lot more out there than Alton. There’s a lot more, and they can reach their goals and keep striving,” he said. “Hopefully one day, one of these kids from Alton can be another one of me, hopefully make it to the NFL.”

For more information about the Mayor’s Charity and Fundraiser Ball, check out this article on RiverBender.com. Those who wish to attend must RSVP by Sept. 16. You can RSVP on the event page at GoinsforMayor.com. Proceeds go to Friends for David Goins and the Overnight Warming Center.

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