If you’ve been around the developmental football level long enough, you’ve seen it: a guy comes in with a new team, new jerseys, a cool logo and an enormous vision that includes changing lives, reaching the kids and impacting a community on his way to dozens of championships, while upping the standard of football success for an entire area.
Then, as the story normally goes, reality hits as a few losses take the wind out of the sails and what was once a vision for changing the football destiny of an entire region is replaced with a prayer to just survive a season without the wheels falling off. As losing takes it toll on attendance, morale and and buy-in, suddenly the font size of the expenses on your bank statement gets enlarged to 72 and you begin to question whether or not chasing your gridiron dreams is worth it.
As the focus of a dream begins to blur, the accompanying upgrades to the vision are typically forgotten. When you have to forfeit a home game because seven people show up, suddenly impacting the community and reaching the kids becomes out of reach.
Too often, that’s how the story goes at this level, but not for the Middle Tennessee Bulldawgs.
The Bulldawgs burst onto the scene with 23 consecutive wins and three consecutive league championships before reaching what is heralded by many to be the pinnacle of this level – a spot in the Gridiron Developmental Football League Championship game against the Oklahoma Thunder.
Somewhere along the way in their climb to the top, their vision grew, as a group of elite footballers couldn’t help but notice their sons – who had a pick-up game of their own going during practice – were pretty good themselves, and together, they too, could achieve greatness.
“Guys on the team had sons that played, so we wanted to start it up and we ended up having pretty much the little version of us,” Bulldawgs owner Ricky Prochaska told Developmental Football USA.
So, the Lil’ Dawgs were born and news of the youth travel team quickly spread – so much so, that they didn’t form only one team.
“I probably have about 135 kids in the organization right now,” Prochaska said. “We have an 8u team, a 10u team and a 13u team. All three played their first games on Sunday and all three teams won down in Columbia.”
Modeled after their adult counterparts who already have a culture established, winning is a way of life.
“They are pretty elite,” Prochaska said. “It’s pretty much the same thing as the semi-pro team, just the kid version of it. We’ve got pretty much the best of the best in the area. There are some other teams in the area, but we really don’t have that much competition.”
Like many who run teams and leagues at this level, football is life for Prochaska, whose adult Bulldawgs played four seasons in two years and won three championships. One of those being the Tennessee Football Alliance, the league Prochaska still runs, although his Bulldawgs have moved on to the GDFL.
“The thing that I envisioned the most with the Bulldawgs and what I really want it to be, my whole goal is to make it so much bigger than just the semipro football team,” Prochaska said. “I’ve always tried to do things as big as I can, on a larger scale if I can. Adding the youth teams was something that I had wanted to do and I just had to find the right people to help push what we were trying to do.
“The thing with the whole things is, the kids are all split, we have White, Black, Hispanic, it’s all different ethnicities and it’s kind of a melting pot for everything. It’s kind of just a little tight knit family.”
One might wonder how one man does so much by himself. The answer is simple, he doesn’t. Like any major successful sports organization, one person may be the face of it, but countless people working together selflessly is what keeps the wheels turning.
“I just want to shout out to the parents and shout out to everyone that’s part of it,” Prochaska said. “The success we’ve had, how everything is growing, it’s because of everybody.”
Prochaska runs the 8u team, which his son plays on, and he’s joined by coaches Josh Hamlin, Bruce Oechsel and George Spurlock. The 10u team is coached by fellow Bulldawg Chris Moseley.
“He’s the captain, pretty much the line captain from the Dawgs,” Prochaska said. “He’s one of the original guys I started the team with and his son plays – Gavin Moseley.”
Cromwell Stewart and Randall Arms lead the 13u Dawgs.
“Antonio Carlton and Andrew Young have played big parts in getting the program rolling for the 13u,” Prochaska said. “It’s been a total team effort between players, coaches and parents to get that group going. They’ve got some key players in Walt, Juice, Big E, L.J. and the list goes on and on of crazy talent.”
With so much crossover between the big Dawgs and the Lil Dawgs, a path for success is quickly being paved that can greatly benefit the football futures of the 135 youth in purple.
“The main thing is, the big Dawgs, we have a mentoring program with the younger kids,” Prochaska said. “It kind of goes hand and hand. It’s all full circle.”
The Lil Dawgs, which were two years in the making, have some guys on their roster who could very well be household names in The Volunteer State in the future.
“On the 10u team, one of our main (Bulldawgs) players is Baybay Smith – No. 3, our DB – his nephew, Javion Kinnard, aka ‘Choc’ is probably the best 10u player in the state,” Prochaska said. “He’s amazing. He’s an athlete, just put the ball in his hands. He’s a 10-year old phenom.”