No helmet. No pads. No problem.
The carefree ensemble of shorts and a t-shirt didn't hold back the competitive drive of the more than 100 Wisconsin high school football players participating in the Green Bay Packers third annual 7-on-7 Regional Tournament Saturday, June 25, at the Don Hutson Center.
Whether it was the Packers' practice turf beneath their feet, the chance at an all-expenses-paid trip to the NFL's National 7-on-7 Tournament in Cleveland, Ohio, or just pure love of the game, participating players put forth the best of their abilities during Saturday's showdown.
Participating high schools included Ashwaubenon, Wrightstown, Menomonie, Wautoma and Chippewa Falls, along with three teams representing the Packers High School Player Development (HSPD) all-star teams. Members of the HSPD all-star teams were chosen after participating in one of the three HSPD football camps held this past month in Chippewa Falls, Green Bay and Milwaukee.
With 12 players on each team, the day-long event gave the athletes a great opportunity to see plenty of time on the field and prepare for the upcoming high school football season.
And while winning the title at the Don Hutson was the ultimate goal on Saturday, as evidenced by all the participants, even those who didn't win earned valuable experiences equally rewarding.
Tom Blair, who assisted as coach with the team from Chippewa Falls, said the sportsmanship and character building aspects for the players was an important outcome of the camp and tournament.
"This is such an amazing experience," Blair said. "This is Chippewa Falls' first time participating in the tournament and already I can see the camaraderie building between our guys. There are some great teams here and the guys can see that. As the day goes on I can see they are really working well together and starting to pick up their game."
Throughout the seven-hour tournament, Chippewa Falls and its competitors showed little sign of fatigue as they took advantage of their opportunity – competitive play on the same turf that helped breed a Super Bowl championship team.
"You can't ask for anything more than the chance to come to the Don Hutson Center and play the game you love," Blair said.
"The accommodations we have been given are amazing. Not only is this a great experience, but the passing-only format is great practice for our guys."
With the regional championship title and advancement to the NFL's National 7-on-7 Tournament on the line, the determined players made sure to give their best effort during each 40-minute contest.
With a round-robin, single-elimination format, teams took the field for four 40-minute brawls. Six games were played by the two teams who met for the championship.
After a long, hard-fought day, players representing the Menomonie area sealed the regional championship title with a 30-3 victory over the Milwaukee HSPD all-stars. Menomonie won all three of its final round-robin games over Chippewa Falls (31-24), Green Bay HSPD all-stars (45-21) and Milwaukee HSPD all-stars (30-3).
The No. 7 seeded Milwaukee HSPD all-stars upset Ashwaubenon 35-17 in round one and sealed a 39-38 overtime victory over Wautoma in round two before falling to Menomonie in the championship.
Menomonie will advance to the NFL's National 7-on-7 Tournament July 7-10. The round-robin, wild card and first two rounds of the national tournament will be held in Berea, Ohio, while the conference championship and finals will take place in in Cleveland, Ohio.
To view photos from the tournament click here.