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Thursday, 23 February 2012 17:22

Flag Football Tournament/Trade Show Highlights Van Tuyl Charity Super Bowl Weekend

by Ed Attanasio

There are three sacred things dear to the hearts of Texans: 1) Football 2) NASCAR and 3) Bass fishing. And although there wasn’t any car racing or angling during the recent Super Bowl weekend, there was a lot of football and all of it was done Texas-style.

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On Saturday, February 4, one day before the New England Patriots met the New York Giants in the actual Super Bowl, 20 flag football teams competed in the Van Tuyl Group’s Super Bowl of Flag Football tournament followed by a trade show and two days of company meetings. The Irving-based company that operates more than 70 car dealerships’ collision centers nationwide hosted an activity-packed four-day schedule, bringing Van Tuyl management and employees, as well as collision vendors and local collision professionals together to eat BBQ, network and play some high-spirited flag football.

The entire weekend was the brainchild of Van Tuyl Group’s National Collision Director Darren Huggins, who comfortably wore several hats in creating, overseeing and implementing all of the weekend’s events. Sponsored by Van Tuyl, PPG Refinish and Enterprise Rent-A-Car, the full-day flag football double-elimination tournament took place at the Stampede Sports Arena, a state-of-the-art facility in Southlake, Texas that features three artificial turf fields. Autobody News and Collision Hub were also on hand to cover the event and all the fanfare surrounding it.

Teams entered in the tournament read like a who’s who of leaders in the automotive collision field, including rental car companies (Enterprise entered three teams, representing three regions in Texas and Hertz was also on-hand); Paint companies and paint jobbers (English Color and Single Source, PPG and Sherwin-Williams); Body shop chains (Caliber Collision had two teams) and several local Dallas-area car dealerships (Sewell Lexus, Town East Ford and Reliable Chevrolet).


Huggins was happy to see that his weekend’s plans came off without a hitch, he said. “This weekend surpassed all of our dreams,” Huggins explained. “This is the first year we’ve done this and we’re already talking about making it an annual event. By bringing the industry together for a couple of days, it was exceptional. We achieved everything we expected and even more. The competition was unbelievable and some of the games were really close. And by helping a charity on top of it, that made it even more special. I’d also like to thank my co-director of the tournament, Russell Hamilton of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, who did all of the scoring and played an integral part of its overall success.”

All four teams entered on behalf of the Van Tuyl Group were called “America’s Team” and coached by Darren Huggins himself. Led by V.T. Team #1, this championship squad consisted of standouts such as Captain Zachary “Huggy” Huggins, Darren’s son; MVP QB/DB Jared “Squid” Mosqueda and WR Matt Saoit, who “pretty much caught everything thrown his way,” according to Darren Huggins. Other stars for the superior team included WR/DB Heath “Chief” Baker; Johan “The Belgian Waffle” Huewart and WR Gregg “G-Unit” Strandberg. On defense, Bobby “El Natural” Ghanbari led the attack, intercepting multiple passes and taking them to the end zone more than once.

V.T. Team #1 went undefeated throughout the entire tournament, running the table and beating a strong team sponsored by Sherwin-Williams in the final game. One of Van Tuyl’s other teams (V.T. Team #2) finished in third place, led by Eric Payne, Taylor Hoover and Eli Naylor, among others.

Robert Shushi was the captain of the second place Sherwin-Williams’ team and proud of his squad, but perplexed by the dominance featured by V.T.’s Team #1. “We gave it our best and we played well, but in the end they were a little faster and a lot more organized. They had signals and plays and they practiced, something we didn’t really do that much of. In the end, they were a better team, so hats off to them. All of the Van Tuyl teams were really good and the fact that Darren coached them all didn’t hurt, I’m sure.”

V.T. Team #4 was by far the oldest team in the tournament, totaling 449 years of age amongst the group, consisting of nine seasoned veterans who gave a very impressive and spirited performance.

If you’re not familiar with this full-speed, non-contact version of football, here’s a brief description of the rules, offered by Huggins. “You get five players on offense and four on defense. The quarterback cannot run past the line of scrimmage, so it’s primarily a passing game. The game consists of two 7.5 minute halves and the clock runs continually until the last two minutes of each contest. The fields are 30 yards long and each team gets four downs to score. You can’t get a first down and there are not any field goals or punts, so it’s all-or-nothing when you have the ball. The defense can’t rush the QB, but he only has four seconds to throw. And unless they collide while going for a pass, there is no contact permitted in this game.”

By playing a safer, non-contact incarnation of football, you would think no one would get injured, but a few bumps and bruises did occur during the tournament, Huggins said. “Nothing serious, but we did see a few pulled groins, quad sprains, broken fingers and one bruised heel. Otherwise, everyone walked (or limped) away a little sore. Pretty much, with so many people playing (in excess of 150) you would expect more injuries, so we were fairly lucky.”

Huggins came up with the idea for flag football as a team building exercise, when he devised such a tournament while holding a series of company meetings last year, he said. “We were in Orlando when I came up with this idea. I’ve been a Dallas Cowboys fan my whole life and I’ve coached and played football for many years. Football reinforces a team approach and teaches people how to work well together for a common cause. When I saw how excited and competitive my guys were, I thought—wow, this can be used to build rapport and leadership on a larger stage. And that’s how it started!”

Van Tuyl’s Super Bowl weekend raised more than $22,000 for Trinity River Mission (TRM), a West Dallas volunteer-based community learning center that sets up children (3-12 grades) for success. Standing for Tutor, Read, Mentor, TRM graduates 98% of its students, by creating a wide range of educational and support programs. By instituting programs to provide nutrition for its students through a Kid’s Café that provides hot meals and snacks four days weekly and conducting a Tutor Power Hour with 68 trained tutors on- site, TRM is successfully fighting illiteracy and combating low test grades in Texas.

TRM’s Executive Director Delores Sosa Green, M. Ed., set up a booth at the Van Tuyl Super Bowl of Flag Football and met with spectators and players all day long. “We provide mentoring for at-risk kids to put them in a position to learn and grow as young people. We have children in our program who want to be engineers, teachers, architects—but the public system is failing them. Low graduation rates prove it.”

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