JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Over 600 athletes from 16 different teams came together to compete in the Jaguars annual 7 on 7 passing challenge on Wednesday.
Jaguars Director Of Player Development and Youth Football Marcus Pollard started this tournament six years ago with just a handful of local teams. Now, teams from South Carolina, Tallahassee, Ocala, as well as teams from Duval, Clay and St. Johns counties all compete, which is the name of the game for Pollard.
"When I started this, I wanted to grow competition and respect for the game of football," said Pollard. "If we can accomplish teams coming from Atlanta and Miami to be here, it is going to grow the competition level for our kids here on the First Coast. To me, that's what it is all about."
Raines senior running back Brandon Marshall agrees. His Vikings are coming off of the first state championship for a Duval county school since 1997 and that winning feeling isn't one he is willing to let go of.
"It is intense. We are out here to win, not just for some play-play. Everybody is out here taking the competition real serious, going for that trophy," said Marshall.
Even though it is summer and the athletes are out of school, the rivalries between some of the participating schools do not take any time off.
"When we play our rivals like Sandalwood, it does get a little intense, I am not going to lie," said Mandarin senior Kas Absolu. "We are going to take this as a learning experience. At the end of the day we just came here to get better."
In addition to exposing the local teams to competition, Pollard wants something more from this annual event. He hopes these players gain a greater respect for the game.
"I want kids to respect the history of the game and then respecting what football can give you," said Pollard. "More than x's and o's and scoring touchdowns, we have the ability to teach mental toughness, teamwork, going when you don't feel like it, bearing the heat, so many intangibles you get from playing football. That's the one thing I want them to take away from this experience, respect for the game of football."
The Jaguars will next host a football camp for boys and girls ages 9 to 14 from July 9th to the 11th. Go to jaguars.com/summercamp to register and for more information.
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