Local athletes experience the thrill of a lifetime

Yaneek Smith

Press Contributing Writer

Success has its perks…like meeting your heroes.
The 12U Rossford Lions, a local flag-football team, recently won the NFL Flag Detroit Lions Regional Tournament in Detroit and will compete in February at the Pro Bowl in Las Vegas for the national championship.
Following their victory, three of the players — Brady Goldsmith, Hayden Salsbury and Connor Bazeley — got to attend the Rocket Mortgage Classic at the Detroit Golf Club. The three were fortunate enough to meet three sports legends — former Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders, former Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson and Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo.
The kids also got to meet the winner of the golf tournament, Tony Finau. (Finau has finished in the top-five of every major tournament, with his best showing being a third-place finish at The Open Championship three years ago.)
Scott Salsbury, a local entrepreneur who lives in Perrysburg and is the coach of the team, said that Johnson signed autographs for the kids, Sanders joked with them and Izzo signed a ball for Hayden, his son.
“Tom Izzo came over and just congratulated them and signed something for all of them,” said Scott Salsbury. “My son hands him a ball, and Izzo signs it, hands it to Hayden and he says, ‘Go Blue.’ Then Izzo goes, in a good-natured way, ‘Did you just hear this young man? He asks me for my signature and then says, ‘Go Blue.’”
The other members of the team are Jacob Bragg, Nathan Draeger, Matthew Helman, Ethan Myers, Connor Repp, Daniel Seth, Garret Kizer and Jackson Erwin.
Kizer and the Salsbury family have local ties to the Lake Township community while Draeger is a student in the Cardinal Stritch school system. The rest of the kids live in Perrysburg and Rossford.
Helman, the quarterback, was the Most Valuable Player of the tournament, one that saw the Lions dominate and win all five of its games by an average of 21 points.
“We’re nothing but a rec team,” said Scott Salsbury. “We play two to three times per year in the fall and winter. We’ve grown up in the Rossford dome for six years, and we’ve won back-to-back Super Bowls, so we thought, maybe we’re a decent team –– maybe we should play against these travel teams.
“We’re probably 60-10 over the last six years.”
Salsbury talked about the competition that takes place at the Pro Bowl.
“We are guaranteed three games, but we could play six. The tournament is on Feb. 4 and 5 and some of the teams get to play at halftime of the Pro Bowl (on the 6th). We hope we are one of those teams,” he said. “It’s the experience, — it’s all about meeting the athletes and being part of the Pro Bowl. It’s a really cool opportunity for the kids to go out and meet some of their heroes. I don’t know if we’re going to be the No. 1 team in the nation, (but) I think they’re capable of doing that. I’ve never been a part of something that unique. That lifetime experience is cool for them. I really believe they’re going to come out on top.
“In general, you’re not playing sports because you think you’re going to be a pro. You’re there with your friends. They love each other; you can see that they love each other and get along great. That activity, that concept is what we’re doing here. You learn important things — you have to get along with everyone, there are rules to follow and you give your best effort. I don’t care if it’s backgammon or football — the fact that they’re out there engaging and growing is important. Some people learn from books and some people learn from engaging.”
An added bonus for the players was getting a pep talk from former Toledo Rockets quarterback Bruce Gradkowski before the tournament. He was training at the Total Sports Complex in Rossford and spoke with the team.
Gradkowski, who is a Pittsburgh native, is currently the offensive coordinator for the XFL’s St. Louis BattleHawks. He played for 11 years in the NFL for five teams, including the Cleveland Browns.
“The children and the parents — it’s a great group,” said Salsbury. “I’m lucky to have amazing parents and amazing athletes.”


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