For Sparks resident, Doug Vann, manager of the Truckee Meadows league football team, the Reno Bullys, the sport took him away from a life of gangs and crime. He is hoping to inspire men of all ages to join his football team and create good in the community. He is hosting tryouts for the Bullys and encourages football lovers of all abilities to come and check out his team.
Vann played football as a student at Hug High School. But when he lost his mother at the age of 16, Vann turned to gang life for support.
"My life was hard, said Vann. "But football was always that stress reliever for me. It was the only positive thing in my life."
In 2010, he joined Reno's then-newest football league team, the Reno Silverbacks, which folded three years later to due poor management.
"There were 35 players who wanted to play but didn't have a team to play with," said Vann. "So, I created the Reno Bullys."
The Bullys started as a flag football team, winning last year's regional division, but this season, they evolved into full contact football. The name, Bullys, is based off Vann's bulldog-pit bull hybrid pet.
"You have these 'bully' dogs that look vicious and terrifying but they are actually really sweet. They're big teddybears," said Vann. "The team is the same way. Some of us are big and terrifying. Some of us still look like we're in a gang. But really, we're big softies and really nice guys."
Vann is also looking for sponsors to contribute funding to the team.
"It would be nice to get everyone brand new equipment," said Vann. "I eventually want to have charity games where we raise money for members of the community. I know of a little boy who had cancer and it's hard on his mom. I'd like to raise money for him and help them out."
Vann understands that football can change lives. He hopes in the upcoming season to have scouts at his practices and games, looking for talent on the semi-professional level.
"This football team is a second change for a lot of guys," said Vann. "They could have missed out on playing football in school. Now, they could do it. Football is a big family thing. You can bring out your adult son to play with you."
Football runs in the family. Vann's cousin, Brandon Marshall, is on the Denver Broncos' practice squad. Kage Castillo, Vann's stepson, has played on the Bullys flag football team and is looking forward to the new season, as well as meeting his new teammates. Castillo began playing football at a young age and throughout high school, as a wide receiver. He credits football and the area leagues for keeping him out of trouble.
"Football has encouraged me to believe in myself," said Castillo. "I learned how to focus on other stuff other than things like partying. My friends want to party all the time, Friday and Saturday nights and go out, acting all crazy. But I have practice on Saturdays. I'd rather dedicate my time to football than go out. I want to try to be the best player I can be."
Tryouts will be held Saturday, Dec. 21 at Dick Taylor Park, located on Valley Rd. in Reno, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Men, from age 18 and on, are allowed to tryout but are required to have their own gear. The cost to tryout is $25 per person. This will be the Bullys final tryout for the upcoming season. The season will begin when the Bullys play the Reno Lions April 5, 2014; the game location will be determined at a later date.
For more information about the Reno Bullys, visit www.facebook.com/renobullys or call (775) 379-9364.