This past weekend the Indianapolis Colts and the Indiana National Guard hosted the NFL High School Player Development 7-on-7 National Tournament at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. This was a milestone event for the Colts and the NFL, as it was the first time all 32 NFL teams ever took part in the event.
"The only way we were able to get this tournament done was with the cooperation of the Indianapolis Colts and the Indiana National Guard," said NFL H.S.P.D. Director Jerry Horowitz.
The Indiana National Guard stationed 75 troops to help facilitate the event this past weekend. Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger couldn't have been happier about LTC Wesley Russell and his soldiers, but the relationship with the Colts makes hosting the tournament even more special.
"When we need something, the Colts are there," said Umbarger. "We are glad that we have a great relationship with Mr. Irsay and the whole Colts organization."
The 7-on-7 aspect of the tournament has always been a major focus of the NFL H.S.P.D. Program, but this year was the first time linemen were incorporated into the event. The Lineman Leadership Program allowed the lineman to improve on their skills which will have a positive effect on them for the rest of their lives.
"We wanted to bring this program here and showcase what it is all about to the Guard," said Horowitz. "That is what separates the NFL from other sports industries."
As for 7-on-7 Tournament action, all 32 NFL teams were filled with talented high school players from all across the country. Every team that was represented in the tournament had multiple players that will be playing division one college football, and a select few have all the makings to eventually lead into the NFL.
"There are going to be kids participating in this tournament that will be in the NFL," said Umbarger.
The team representing Colts, the Heritage Christian Eagles, proved they could compete and beat some of the best talent in the nation. The Colts for the first time ever in the National Tournament earned a number one seed for the elimination rounds.
"Our guys played their hearts out in this tournament," said Heritage Christian Head Coach Ron Qualls. "They weren't intimated and gave everything they had."
When the elimination round began, the Colts didn't waste any time in showcasing why they earned the number one seed. The Colts knocked out the Tennessee Titians 51-21 to advance on to the second round.
The team the Colts faced in the second round was the Houston Texas, one of only two teams to beat the Colts in the pool play round. The Colts went toe-to-toe with the Texans, but in the end it was the Texans holding on to a 16-10 victory and knocking out the Colts in the tournament.
Even though the Eagles did not win the tournament, Indianapolis Colts Youth Football Commissioner Mike Prior said the Colts Organization could not have been prouder of the Eagles.
"They represented us better than we could have ever imagined," said Prior. "They were what this tournament is all about, having great football ability but also showing great character off the field."
After the Colts were knocked out of the tournament, there were still great games to be played. All afternoon teams battled and made spectacular plays, but in the end it was the Miami Dolphins knocking off the Detroit Lions in the championship game to capture their fourth straight NFL H.S.P.D. 7-on-7 National Tournament Championship.
Since this was a milestone event for the NFL, it was an opportunity for the Colts to showcase how they can run a 32 team national tournament.
"We had a coaches meeting late Friday night and all the coaches who have been to all the tournaments said this was the best tournament in the 8 years of the program," said Qualls. "The Colts and the Indiana National Guard did an outstanding job all weekend."
The Tournament was a huge success in the eyes of the coaches, players, and the NFL.
"It was an honor to host this tournament with the National Guard to showcase our facility and our city," Prior said.
For more complete coverage on the National 7-on-7 Tournament, stay tuned to Colts.com/MyIndianaFootball.
Also for a special video piece on Heritage Christian and the whole tournament, tune into Colts Up Close on WISH-TV Saturday Night at 11:35pm.