When Elliott Giles moved from Miami to Youngstown in 1997, it wasn’t for the weather.
That year, Giles was a wide receiver on Youngstown State University’s Division I-AA national championship football team, which was coached by Jim Tressel.
Giles’ playing days for the Penguins lasted through 1999.
It was during that time that Giles learned to appreciate Youngstown.
“That was one of the biggest reasons that I decided to stay here,” Giles said.
“During my three years here at YSU, Coach Tressel always had us players go out into the community. Me having an education background and being involved with kids, it was almost a natural feel for me to go out into the community, go out to local schools and volunteer my time.”
Fourteen years later, Giles — now with his family — remains in Youngstown and continues to give back to the community.
“I get a lot of compliments from parents,” Giles said. “They say, ‘Hey, you’re not even from here, but you put so much into the university and the city.’”
Giles is one of five members on the national committee of NFL FLAG, a youth flag football league that promotes active lifestyles.
In addition, Giles is president of the Youngstown Youth Flag Football Association, which is geared toward children between the ages of 5 and 14 who live in the tri-county area.
“When I started to play flag football as an adult, I wanted to figure out how I can implement kids into this program,” said Giles, who founded Youngstown’s youth league in 2007. “I did a little research with the NFL and, as they say, the rest is history.”
On Feb. 3, two teams from Giles’ local league will compete for the flag football national championship. Coached by Giles, the teams are the Youngstown 9-11 boys and 12-14 girls.
Eight teams will play for the championship, coming from Chicago, Florida, New York, Virginia, Las Vegas, California, Texas and Ohio. The event will be held in New Orleans, the site of Super Bowl XLVII.
“It’s not every day you can go down to the site of the Super Bowl, spend a couple days down there in that venue and just soak it all in,” Giles said.
The boys team will play as the Jets, since they qualified out of the New York regionals. The players are Kameron Kreps, Parker Sherry, Luke Fulton, Michael O’Horo, Connor Crogan, Jaize Zeigler and Dominic Posey.
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“It’s been extremely exciting,” said Sherry, a quarterback. “This is going to be amazing to go out there and compete on television and be able to see other kids from other teams.”
The girls team, representing the Bengals after winning in Cincinnati, consists of Rilee Leider, Emily Moretti, Dakota Naples, Jahnice Berry, Sarah Bury, Brittany Mook and Znaya Brown.
“I’m very excited,” Bury said. “It’s my first time down, so I’m not really sure what to expect, but we’re just going to try our hardest and play our best.”
However, Giles said he isn’t entirely focused on the competitive aspect of the trip. The day after the tournament, his teams will take part in the NFL Experience, which includes numerous activities and a chance for the kids to meet NFL players.
“Not only is the actual tournament going to be awesome, but the day after is going to be such a tremendous experience for these kids,” Giles said. “I’m excited for them to soak it all in and create some memories that hopefully will last a lifetime.”
That shouldn’t be a problem, as players like Bury are already excited for the unique opportunities.
“It will be a good experience just to see everything that’s going to happen,” she said. “I don’t care who we meet. I’m just excited to see [the NFL players].”
Still, Giles said he thinks his kids can win it all. He added that his teams are prepared, as they must be; under NFL FLAG rules, coaches cannot interfere with play during games.
“As a coach, when I get there in New Orleans, I’m just going to sit back and watch these kids do what they learned and hopefully win it,” he said.
Consider Sherry another believer in Youngstown’s abilities.
“I just want to win a championship and have our coach proud of us,” he said.
Naturally, Giles said he is already proud of his teams. He’s also excited for the prospects of exposing his Youngstown league nationally.
“Now that our kids are competing on a more national level, it’s going to bring more notoriety to our organization,” said Giles, who estimated that his league has impacted roughly 7,000 youths since its start. “Hopefully, we’ll get more kids to take part in flag football.”
The tournament will cap a busy 12 months for Giles. In the past year, he was inducted into the YSU Athletics Hall of Fame and created the Elliott L. Giles Scholarship.
“I guess it solidifies my career and what I’ve done here,” said Giles, who holds the most yards per catch and most yards in a game records for YSU. “These past 12 months have just been an unbelievable experience for me. I’m truly humbled by everything, … and I’m just going to continue to give back and help this city as best I can.”