BRADENTON — Past, present, and future stars were out in full force at IMG Academy on Saturday, which wasn’t accidental.
They were either coaching, or watching the NFA 7v7 National Championships, widely regarded as the premier 7v7 tournament in the country.
Two-time Super Bowl champion and FSU star Deion Sanders, a North Fort Myers High graduate, had a chance to reconnect with some of those stars, who are fellow Under Armour ambassadors.
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Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was coaching his two 7v7 Atlanta-area teams, and Pro Football Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, who played all of his 17 seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, was running a football camp next to the NFA 7v7 National Championships, which features the best linebackers in the country.
Former Heisman Trophy winner and Ohio State great Eddie George was also on the grounds of IMG watching games. Even five-time World Series Champion and former New York Yankee Andy Pettitte got a quick look at the tournament on a morning run.
Sanders was glad that both his Fort Myers and Dallas-area TRUTH teams could listen to Lewis, a former teammate of his during his time in Baltimore prior to his retirement.
Deion Sanders and Cam Newton have a brief conversation prior to squaring off in the NFA 7v7 National Championships Saturday afternoon, held at IMG Academy.
Deion Sanders and Cam Newton have a brief conversation prior to squaring off in the NFA 7v7 National Championships Saturday afternoon, held at IMG Academy. (Photo: Alex Martin)
“You had Ray talking to these kids today, that wasn’t on our itinerary today,” Sanders said. “To meet Ray and have him inspire them, it’s a blessing for them. Things like this today is expanding their vision, and their thought process that they can have this and see things outside of the box, like I got to see outside of McGregor Boulevard back then.”
Newton was interacting quite often with his team, celebrating when his team scored a touchdown or made a game-clinching stop. His exuberant personality that is often seen during NFL games pumped up his kids to go out and do whatever they had to do to win. Newton declined to comment.
“You gotta be a savage to play on this team,” C1N All-Star Durante Jones said following their final win of the day. Jones attends Mays High School in Atlanta, Georgia and holds 10 offers.
Although both of Sanders’ teams got swept by Newton’s teams, his Dallas team has been in this position before, coming back to win several tournaments this year.
“It’s all about competition, and we love it,” Sanders said. “With 7-on-7, it’s not about today, it’s about tomorrow. What happened today, you can come back tomorrow and say, you know what, we’re just as good if not better than that team. We can play. The things that transpired today can go totally the opposite way tomorrow, and we’ve seen that happen before.”