The 2012 NFL National 7-on-7 Tournament presented by the National Guard brought together elite high school players from around the country to compete for the 7-on-7 title in Indianapolis. Although it was primarily a football event, the athletes in attendance learned a number of valuable leadership skills that they can apply both on and off the field. Each of the 32 NFL teams was represented by athletes from their respective regions.
“We host this event for high school kids to come out and get a chance to play against other kids from across the nation,” said Sergeant Zachary Rainey of the Indiana National Guard. “It helps them excel both on and off the field, and helps them become a team before the season starts.”
The journey to Nationals was not easy. Each team of 12 competed in regionals before participating in the High School Player Development camp.
“In the National Guard, you have to have a team to be one unit. Without that one unit, the mission or job cannot be done. It’s the same with football and other sports,” added Rainey. “If you don't have one team and one heartbeat, you won’t be able to win on or off the field.”
Teamwork and competition were evident all over the field. Players put on tremendous displays of athleticism and encouraged each other after both good and bad plays. “You find out there are guys who are as just as good as you are out here,” said Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, a former NFL All-Pro receiver. “You can’t rest on your laurels; you have to keep working hard.”
The National Guard had a strong presence throughout the tournament, with boots and fatigues everywhere. Each team had a Guard leader responsible for guiding them through their journey, offering off-the-field lessons and encouraging the players. “The National Guard being here is a great example for these guys to see what leadership truly is,” said Ron Brewer, NCAA assistant director of leadership development. “If they can learn some of those skills and learn to imitate some of those guys, it will help them as they advance in their careers.”