Football players from across the nation coach youth in Tampa at Sandlot 7v7 pro-am tournament

Hundreds of young athletes from across the nation were in Tampa this weekend for a unique opportunity to play football among some of the league's best former and current players. 

"It's been fun, it's been really challenging, but that's a good thing because it pushes me to be better than what I am now," said Sarasota eighth grade wide receiver Brayden Bragg.

"It's an unbelievable combination," Former NFL safety Abram Elam. "There are some former players that sponsor young kids, they've walked in their paths and can teach the lessons they've learned during their time."

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NFLPA Vice President of Player Services, Dexter Santos, said the idea for the Sandlot 7v7 pro-am tournament came about after he had conversations with current players who were already coaching in their local communities during their offseason.

"A lot of players came back and talked about how they had 7v7 teams," Santos explained. "We wanted to make this exclusive...player-centric...driven by players, so the only way you can get a team in here, you have to be coached by a player, mentored by a player or sponsored by a player." 

After a successful inaugural year at the Tournament Sportsplex of Tampa Bay in 2022, team involvement more than doubled this year, and Santos said his staff was eager to return to the Bay-area for several reasons. Both on and off the field.

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"We chose Tampa because, I mean obviously, the weather here in Florida is tremendous, plus the access to universities, we had about 25 teams that made visits to local universities to check out their football programs," Santos added. We partnered with the Tampa Sports commission, and we couldn't be more thrilled at how they've supported us." 

Football isn't the only focus, they also welcome STEM and tech-based companies from around the country, and give out scholarships to underserved players. 

Next year, organizers are hoping to include girls flag football in the tournament from across the state as Florida has some of the best teams in the nation.