Trophy to honor memory of Mizell
Published 3:00 am Tuesday, November 1, 2016
Approximately five years ago, Eric and Tiffaney Mizell shared an idea that would set the wheels in motion for one of the most popular youth sports programs within the operations of Troy Parks and Recreation.
Tonight at the Troy Sportsplex a trophy bearing the name and honoring the legacy of Eric Mizell will be presented to champions in three separate flag football leagues, a program that would never have been started without the vision of the Mizells.
When Eric and Tiffaney walked into the office, it was evident this was not your typical meeting. Eric held a commanding presence, as any former Troy University offensive lineman likely would, but it was the articulate and common-sense presentation of the financial advisor and broker that made it an easy sell. Within a minute of everyone settling into their chairs, it was crystal clear who the smartest man in the room was.
TPRD has played tackle football for decades, quite successfully, but Eric wanted us to think with the left side of our brain regarding his proposition.
Flag football, Eric said, was an opportunity for more children to become active, to learn more about the fundamentals of football, but more importantly, assure that they have fun.
Here is a man that knew what tackle football was all about, as an offensive lineman for Troy University, he fought in hand-to-hand combat with Division I defensive lineman for over two years and a decade of football before that.
While youth tackle football is an introduction for many 9-12 year olds to what they can expect when they reach the ranks of middle school athletics, flag football – ages 5-11 – is an alternative to not only tackle, but also for soccer.
In a typical tackle football game, you will see 11 young men on the field and as many as 10 to 15 on the sideline.
In a typical flag football game, you will see seven young people on the field on each side of the ball, and only two or three on the sidelines. Substitutions are often, the action is fast-paced, every player has an opportunity to touch the ball, and the sidelines are bumper-to-bumper with lawn chairs of parents and grandparents.
TPRD Youth Sports Coordinator David Dickey and I told the Mizells we would offer the league during registration and see what kind of response we would get. I remember Eric smiling and saying he guaranteed it would be enough to start.
Eric was correct, as there was a respectable number of teams the first year, but the next year those numbers tripled, and today there are 14 teams and approximately 130 players in the 11-Under, 8-Under and 6-Under divisions.
One of the many things that made Eric Mizell a unique and beloved figure in the community was his ability to offer his talents and services to any and every organization he came into contact with.
Mizell, who passed away at the age of 46 on Oct. 4, served in leadership positions with the Troy City School System, Troy University Athletics, the Troy University National Alumni Association, Park Memorial Methodist Church, he was an employee of Troy Bank and Trust, and helped young people through Upward Basketball, TPRD youth programs and many, many others.
There was a seemingly limitless number of people that knew and loved Eric. His friend Ben Dunn first met Eric in college at Troy over 20 years ago, but it was when their children were on the same youth teams that they became closer.
“I had triplets and Eric and Tiffaney had two sets of twins,” said Dunn. “Our boys are the same age, and we just got involved in baseball, basketball, football, and got close doing that. You just get involved in your kids lives, and whoever you are around you just become closer friends with. In flag football, I think Eric saw something there, that you can get kids involved a little earlier than in tackle, but one of the things we talked about was that everybody gets to handle the ball in flag football. My kid is probably 150 pounds, and if he played tackle he would be on the offensive line. There is nothing wrong with that, but in flag, everyone gets to play, and that was a big thing with Eric.
“He really tried to teach them about effort and about the game of football. Whether it was baseball or football, Eric had a lot of patience. He really tried to get down to their level to explain why we do this the way we do. He was a great encourager and made things fun. Sometimes we get too wound up in winning. He definitely wanted to win, no doubt, but he always wanted to make it a good time. In flag football he saw the opportunity to get all kids involved, and a way to encourage kids in sports, especially football, and that was his love. He had a gift in coaching young kids and making it fun.”
Through the ideas of Tiffaney and Eric, and through their efforts, a number of young people are participating in a program that otherwise would not have been available. They have made a difference in the lives of hundreds of children, and thousands more to come.
That is one of the many legacies for which Eric Mizell will be remembered.