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Navy rescue swimmer creates 'dream team' for local kids

New sports franchise offers patriotism, positive role models

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There's a brand new sports league in town -- brought to life by a local member of the U.S. Navy. And to bring patriotism and positive role models to local children, he's added others on to create what he considers his "dream team."

Second Class Petty Officer Matt Hough just started Jacksonville's ONE Sports Nation -- currently offering Grid Iron Flag Football, an NFL Flag Football League, as well as Grid Iron Cheer.

He splits his time right now between this new sports league and running missions.

"I am actually a Navy Rescue Swimmer," Hough said. "I actually fly around in the helicopters you see over you, over the Buckman Bridge."

The Second Class Petty Officer is currently on shore duty at NAS Jacksonville, preparing to retire. He wants to ensure when he stops serving our country he continues to serve our local community.

"We want to be the best out here and we want to bring our military-esque type of discipline, organization here, but we also want to provide a premiere sports experience for youth," Hough explained.

To help provide young athletes the same values the military provides him, he is creating a unique organization.

"I keep a list on my phone called the 'dream team' and everyone I come in contact with, that I'd want to work with in the future, I wrote them down and I've contacted them," said Hough.

His "dream team" is made up of family and service members he's met along the way: A group of people who can help pass the right values on to the next generation.

"If you want to do something, do it the best," Hough said.

News4Jax recently spent a Saturday morning in the center of the Grid Iron Flag Football excitement. On each field, were referees with real-world experience. One of them is Navy Sonar Tech Tony Parker.

"We go around and hunt for hostile submarines," Parker explained.

Parker, a Second Class Petty Officer, got the "dream team" call and as the famous Jerry McGuire movie quote goes, Hough "had him at hello."

"When he first suggested it, I said, 'I'm in, you don't have to say any more. It's for the kids,'" explained Parker. "Teach them the right way to go and just come out and have some fun and learn about team work. And that's what we do in the military, teamwork."

Another referee you'll find on the field is First Class Petty Officer James Hay. He actually instructed Hough years ago at Helicopter School. He also made Hough's list.

"I like working with kids, to have that role model, some kids don't have role models in their life," Hay explained.

Hay often referees for the youngest group in the league, the 5- to 6-year-olds, giving advice and support throughout the game.

"Refs like to step in and help out the coaches on the field, give them a little pointers on what to do," Hay said.

Another referee is a fellow Navy rescue swimmer, Second Class Petty Officer Alex Mahs. While he too makes calls on the field during the Saturday flag football games, Hough says Mahs is the one answering calls on a daily basis for Jacksonville's ONE Sports Nation.

All the military experience that has built this franchise makes parents happy.

"It actually makes me feel really good," said Trevor Chase.

Chase's son plays center in this NFL flag football league. And with 12 years of military service himself, this Army National Guardsman finds this veteran-owned league to be a perfect fit.

"The camaraderie, everyone's out here, it's still a brotherhood," said Chase. "Veterans still being able to come together and have a good experience and all of our kids get to come together and work together as well."

But it's not just the referees. Hough's "dream team" expands off the field as well. In the main tent is his wife Jamey Hough and his three children.

They are out there every Saturday, managing everything from merchandise to sports supplies -- ensuring gameday goes off without a hitch. Hough says he couldn't possibly do any of this without his family's support.

But what's good football without good food? Parked just beyond that main tent, another "dream team" member.

"I always said if I was to ever to open up a business, I'm gonna find those barbecue guys," Hough said.

Hough did track down "those barbecue guys": Army Veteran Derrick Whitaker and his brother Tarik own Whitz Pit -- a barbecue truck you'll find serving at every game.

"We have a great, wonderful veteran’s organization out here. Everybody out here, I feel like I'm at home," Derrick said while cooking alongside Tarik. "When we came up with this, we always wanted to serve the children population and the military population, and right now, we happen to be lucky enough to do both at one time."

Hough is the only ONE Sports Nation franchise owner in Florida. He currently offers Grid Iron Flag Football and Grid Iron Cheer. The fall season begins September 24, and registration is underway for ages 5 to 15. Sports are open to all kids, military or not. In fact, many are not military, they're just getting the benefit of having some positive military role models.

For more information, you can call 904-203-8588, or go online here. On the website, you can also find out about coaching and volunteering opportunities.

Hough says his franchise is certainly growing. In fact, in January, he will be adding on Full Court Legends NBA Basketball.

Veteran-owned businesses

With a large and growing military community in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia, News4Jax has featured a number of local veteran-owned businesses. Will Amos, co-founder of VeteransList.us, says the impact of your support is greater than you may think.

"We support veteran-owned businesses to create a ripple effect in the veteran community and the greater community in general," Amos told News4Jax.

Amos, a Marine veteran himself, helped develop VeteransList.us to offer a free, nationwide database to make it easier for people to find veteran-owned businesses where they live.

With September being Suicide Awareness Month, Amos' recent YouTube video explains why he feels your support can be life-saving. He says that while the 22 push-up challenge does raise awareness about veteran suicide, there's one thing everyone can do to make a difference.

"I'm calling on everyone to do one thing, and that is support veteran-owned businesses. And it's for one purpose, and it's something we understand. It's that veteran-owned businesses, they hire veterans. They bring people in from the same background. So, if you're supporting a veteran-owned business, you're supporting 5, 10, 20, 100 veterans," Amos explained in his YouTube video. "Not only giving them gainful employment, but they are around their brothers and their sisters, working every day in these businesses and becoming part of the tribe again and feeling a part of something bigger than themselves -- which is essentially why all of us joined the military."

Anyone can search VeteransList.us for free by product, place or ZIP code. Also, veteran-owned businesses wanting to be in the company's database can request to be for free, as well.

Watch recent News4Jax stories on veteran-owned businesses: