Gridiron Elite 7v7: A Family Affair

    Father’s Day is a special time for a dad and son.

    A father role that is often overlooked though is one that a coach plays for their athletes, especially at the youth and high school level.

    Sports teams and programs always emphasize being a “family.” Coming together, putting your differences aside, and playing as one – like what a family does.

    While it might come off as an overused phrase to some, it truly is important in the overall dynamic of a team’s success. One program in the Orlando area has taken that approach to a new level.

    Gridiron Elite 7v7 was founded by a dad and son duo – Vinnie and Michael Siciliano – who have orchestrated the program to the highest levels of competition and becoming an elite, championship brand over their seven years of existence.

    The two even got older brother Anthony to join them in the 7v7 coaching ranks for the first time this year, making Gridiron Elite truly a family affair.

    On this Father’s Day, we look back on how a father and sons have impacted the lives of others, and done so at an incredible level of play.

    Back to Their Roots

    Vinnie coached his two sons – and even against Anthony at one point – throughout their youth and high school careers.

    Anthony was a standout quarterback, while Michael played slot receiver. The family moved to Florida from New Jersey in the late 2000s and soon both boys had a love for the game like their father.

    “I love to give back and I love the game itself,” Vinnie said. “I’m passionate about the game, it brings so many different life lessons for football for young kids.”

    Michael had an opportunity to play at Wagner and several other FCS offers out of high school, but ultimately decided to stay home and go to school. Though his playing days were over, he still wanted to be around the game, and found a way to do that through coaching.

    The younger Siciliano brother would find a way to do that coaching high school football, and also had an opportunity to coach as a graduate assistant at the University of Florida under former coach Dan Mullen.

    Shortly in to his career, he landed at Masters Academy in Oviedo. After his first season an opportunity arose where the school needed to add coaches, and Michael had the perfect tandem in mind.

    Anthony joined to work with the quarterbacks. After Vinnie had two hip replacements, he wanted to get back in to coaching while being sidelined from his construction career.

    At that point the only open position was to coach the offensive line. Although that was a new role for Vinnie, he accepted the challenge.

    “My Mom always joked with me, she said ‘you better make sure your father wins that state championship ring’ so lots of pressure,” Michael said. “[Being] able to hold that trophy over top of him when we were at the stadium in Lakeland when we won states … It was incredible man.

    “Seeing the smile on his face and the passion, now he has that state ring that’s something he can cross off his bucket list and it’s well deserved for all the hard work and determination he puts in.”

    Though Vinnie has been coaching for over 20 years, to that point he hadn’t coached a team to a state championship victory. That would change when Masters Academy topped Orlando Christian Prep 35-6 to win the 2019 SSAA championship.

    “All three of us have a ring,” Vinnie said. “It wasn’t a point of winning it as it was with doing it with them, and I’m able to sit there and talk about it to this day and that’s something.”

    Forming Gridiron Elite

    Following the state title win, Vinnie was training a group of kids one day when one of them approached with a unique idea: starting a 7v7 team.

    “That day I went home and I went to see my younger son Michael and I said ‘Hey, wanna do 7-on-7 together? Let’s start this thing, let’s start with one team only and see how it goes, we’ll take it slow’ and he gave me his thoughts and he goes alright pops let’s try to take it step by step,” Vinnie said.

    From there, Gridiron Elite 7v7 was born.

    The organization started with just one team and has rose to prominence, now fielding three teams from 14u to 18u. Vinnie says the team had 105 kids tryout ahead of the 2023 season, and 150 this past year.

    For Vinnie, it was a no-brainer and another way to spend more time with his kids.

    “I wanted to do something with my son,” Vinnie said. “I think we love football, he’s so passionate, I’m so passionate, you can see us on the field how we get.

    “He always tells me you need to calm down, and I keep telling him he needs to calm down.”

    That passion has led them to a ton of trophies in the meantime. The 18u team won two DR7 championships in 2024 (Davenport, The Villages) and the 14u team finished as the #4 team in the Zorts rankings at the end of the season.

    “I don’t think there’s any 7-on-7 teams that have a father and a son have been as successful as we have been,” Michael said.

    The Missing Piece

    Though the duo of Vinnie and Michael had teamed up once more, they were still missing something.

    They had tried to convince Anthony to join them again on the sidelines since starting up the program, though he declined.

    Finally, they were able to get him to come and coach alongside them again in the 2024 7v7 season.

    “Having my brother out there is great, that’s my guy,” Michael said. “Love you a lot Ant, he really does an awesome job.”

    Michael said he’s excited to see Anthony progress as a coach and play caller after a fruitful first year.

    “God puts us in positions that we are supposed to be in and I wouldn’t want to do it other than with my Dad and my brother,” Michael added.

    The Gridiron Elite Godfather

    The formation of Gridiron Elite ultimately falls back to that day at the fields of training with Vinnie.

    Though 7v7 might have been new, Vinnie embraced the challenged and has taken it in stride.

    “It’s a building block, so we’re always trying to get a little bit closer, a little bit better,” Vinnie said. “How can we help these young men achieve their goals.”

    While Michael has taken on the head coaching role for the majority of the Gridiron Elite teams, he credits his father for inspiring him to become the coach that he is.

    “He’s been coaching for so long and he’s someone I look up to to this day and will always look up to, so having the ability to learn the game of football and being able to coach with him beside him in this capacity is something I’ve wanted and then some,” Michael said. “It’s an incredible journey that I’ve been going with him for, super excited for where it’s headed.”

    Many athletes who played sports over the years always have a coach that comes to mind that helped them become the person they eventually became.

    For Michael and Anthony, they were blessed to also call that person Dad.

    On this Father’s Day, Michael finishes our story with a special message for his:

    “You’re the reason why I am the man I am today,” Michael said. “I love you very much, you really do an awesome job, I look up to you.

    “Hopefully one day I can be the Father that you are to me, Anthony, and Nicole. I love doing this with you, I love seeing the passion on your face, and let’s keep riding this out ’til the wheels fall off.”

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