The NFL Flag Championships began on January 25, 2018 in Orlando, Florida at ESPN’s Wide World Of Sports facility and for the children involved, it did not disappoint!
As mentioned in a previous post (LINK), the Tennessee Titans decided to form a team to represent them and try-outs began in the fall. As soon as my son saw the tryout posting, he was super excited and motivated to try-out. We encouraged his willingness to put himself out there and drive to play, but cautioned and advised that he set realistic expectations because there would likely be a lot of talented kids trying out for a chance to represent the Titans and be sent to Florida for the championships. Apparently Ryan, who had never snapped the ball before, had a talent for it and that, coupled with the fact that he has had experience playing Quarterback AND some good hands for catching, found him a spot on the team as Center!
On Thursday, January 24th the team met up at Nashville International Airport, got their tickets, and boarded their flight. THey knew that the first evening was “Opening Night Media Night” so they were anxious, so the plane having mechanical issues and needing to be traded out for another didn’t help to calm their nerves, but eventually they were off and after a short flight, arrived in Florida.
On arrival at Disney’s All-Star Sports hotel there was only a short bit of time to get passess and gear provided by NFL Flag and hop on the buses that brought them to ESPN’s Wide World of Sports facility.
You could see that ESPN’s Wide World of Sports was all set for the upcoming NFL Pro Bowl festivities with a slew of signs around the facility. The team exited the bus and approached the arena coliseum type main building that Opening Night Media Night was being held in. Parents (“Spectators” were herded into one line and players coaches were funneled directly into the building to begin the night of their lives.
It’s hard to overstate how incredible the night’s experience was for the teams involved with this event. A red carpet was laid out and each team was announced by one of the official NFL announcers that you regularly hear on television. Mini interviews were conducted and the players got to meet NFL cheerleaders, get a group phone taken, and several team mascots made appearances to entertain both the players and spectators.
Later, the players were asked to approach the main stage and Snoop Dogg, who is a big supporter of Flag Football (he runs a league of his own), made an appearance and talked to the boys about the positive influence sports, and football in particular can have on them. Throughout the evening, there were several other opportunities where the players were asked to come to the stage so there could be additional special appearances… among them being a visit from 12 actual NFL Pro Bowl players. This is particular was the biggest treat for my son who is a fan of the NY Giants. He got to meet Saquon Barkley who won the AP Offensive Rookie Of The Year! Ryan’s most memorable moment was getting to chat with Saquon, who when asked if the Giants had been his favorite team growing up, admitted that he had been a Jets fan!
The remainder of the night allowed the players a chance to rotate through various stations where they got to try on NFL gear, meet Pro Bowl players, and eat some pizza.
Once the event was over, coaches had to gather up their teams and quickly head back to Disney’s All-Star Sports hotel and send players off to bed since the tournament was slated to start early the next morning.
The next morning was the start of the NFL Flag Championships Tournament! Players got up, were loaded onto buses, and on arrival back at ESPN’s Wide World Of Sports, headed off to breakfast which included a chance to listen to a few more visiting NFL players!
Once breakfast was over they headed to the fields for early morning warm ups.
As warm ups were wrapping up, we found that the Tennessee Titans sent representatives, including a camera crew who wished the players luck and filmed each of their games (see the video at the end of this post!).
The tournament itself was a great experience for the players! The Nashville Titans played 4 games in total for the tournament round with a lunch in between. The team played their hearts out and won their first game by a decent margin, but sadly lost their remaining 4 games.
Later, the single win provided them with a chance to enter the playoffs, though they were eliminated after a loss in the first round.
Each game provided the team with a chance to play the game they love, make some great plays, and learn to work better together, as a team. Despite the loss, the players all had a fantastic time and are hopeful for a chance to return next year!
As a brief note, in between games, the players were treated to a brief appearance by Quarterback Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys!
As previously mentioned, the Tennessee Titans sent a film crew who captured the entire tournament experience. On returning after the trip, we checked the Tennessee Titans YouTube channel and found that they had posted the following video of the players experience!