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Ex-New England Patriot brings Beach Football League to Hampton Beach



Ex-New England Patriot brings Beach Football League to Hampton Beach

HAMPTON — A slew of former New England Patriots are touching down at Hampton Beach this Labor Day Weekend as part of two-time Super Bowl Champion Tully Banta-Cain’s touring Beach Football League.

Banta-Cain, who won Super Bowl rings with the Patriots in 2003 and 2004, announced his new pro football league on the sand last year with teams featuring former NFL players alongside up-and-comers looking to try out. The first tryout event will be on Aug. 31 at Hampton Beach, where signups are available online now at no cost. Registration will be $50 starting July 30, according to the website.

The day will feature former Patriots like Jamie Collins and Devin McCourty, as well as other former pro football players and meet and greet opportunities, as well as tackle and flag exhibition games. The event is funded jointly through the Hampton Beach Village District and the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce.

A recent fan of Hampton Beach, Banta-Cain said he fell in love with the “vibe” on Ocean Boulevard. He hopes to make it a regular stop for future Beach Football League tournaments, which will feature 8-on-8 tackle football games.

“Hampton Beach will definitely be at the top of the list in that regard,” Banta-Cain said.

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Banta-Cain bringing sand football to Hampton Beach

Banta-Cain said his new Beach Football League is staking a claim in the world of sand athletics that has become increasingly popular for other sports. He pointed to the growth in popularity of beach volleyball, an Olympic sport since 1996, and beach soccer, which has its own FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.

“Why not now football?” Banta-Cain said.

Banta-Cain has long wanted to create opportunities for players to host their own football games and decided the Beach Football League could be that opportunity. He got the idea while living near Manhattan Beach, running on the sand in 2019. He reached out to peers for feedback and in 2021, held a private tryout and exhibition that proved to him the league could be a success.

The Beach Football League was trademarked and announced in 2023. Former NFL players like Terrell Owens and Adam “Pacman” Jones signed on to be a part of the league that year, and an opening event in the Bahamas was scheduled for February before being postponed.

“So, we could get some other things a little settled,” Banta-Cain said.

Now, games are planned to take place in 2025, with the first draft on Aug. 31 at Hampton Beach.

“This Hampton Beach event is really our first initial public event,” Banta-Cain said. “This thing is still coming out of the starting blocks, but having an actual event sanctioned by the state of New Hampshire and in the (town) of Hampton is a big play for us.”

The tryouts at Hampton will start at 9 a.m. with a series of drills that include cone drills, 30-yard dash, and broad jump. One-on-one drills will feature wide receivers running routes against defensive backs, the “Oklahoma drill” and pass rushers against defensive linemen.

“It’s going to be like a mini combine,” Banta-Cain said.

The drills will be followed by an evaluation process in which the top 40 players are drafted by two different teams present that day. The two teams will then play each other in an exhibition game to end the day, according to Banta-Cain.

The teams will feature the NFL players “blended” into the gameplay. Banta-Cain said current Patriot Kendrick Bourne may come, though he said NFL preseason could impact that. He said other former Patriots like Patrick Pass and Patrick Chung have said they may be there, and he plans to reach out to some of New England’s biggest stars.

“I’m going to start putting feelers out to Gronk, Edelman, Brady,” Banta-Cain said.

Banta-Cain said unknown players trying out for the league ought not to be counted out. He said some talented players don’t get the right opportunities, and he has seen tryouts where players shine despite having little experience.

“There’s talent all over the place,” Banta-Cain said. “This is just another opportunity, and I think we should see a good level of talent.”

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Banta-Cain discovered Hampton Beach through former Patriot

Banta-Cain found his way to Hampton Beach through another former Patriot, Max Lane, who played offensive line from 1994 to 2000. Lane lives in Newburyport, Massachusetts, and has been known to frequent the Goat at Hampton Beach and their new Newburyport location. 

“He’s one of my favorite customers,” Goat owner Al Fleury said of Lane.

Banta-Cain said Lane told him Hampton Beach would be a great place for an event. He said he went there and visited Bernie’s, the Goat and Wally’s, also owned by Fleury. He enjoyed the bustle of Ocean Boulevard with tourists enjoying the boardwalk on foot and the large beach that gives plenty of room for a football game.

“I just saw the vibe of the beach crowd and how the beach was laid out,” Banta-Cain said. “I just pulled the trigger on this, and it should actually be a hit.”

Playing in sand slows the game down slightly, Banta-Cain said, allowing players more time to think about their next move. He said players also enjoy it for its soft landings in a full-contact sport.

Banta-Cain said he’s aware some Patriots fans may wince at sand after 1998 first-round pick Robert Edwards blew out his knee in a rookie Pro Bowl flag football game in the sand in Hawaii. He said that hasn’t kept other pros from enjoying football in the sand, noting Charles Woodson and others played in that game and had great careers.

“I think football in general, if you’re going to worry about playing football on sand or grass, there’s injury to worry about,” Banta-Cain said.

Banta-Cain is from California but today lives in Rhode Island. His playing career also took him to the San Francisco 49ers before he returned to the Patriots from 2009-2010. He said opportunities to spend time with New England fans, like with the Beach Football League, are meaningful.

“I’m blessed to have played here,” Banta-Cain said. “To be able to give back to the place that gave me so much is an honor.”

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