Greg Hennigar Tournament gives back, honors friend

Penn Charter quarterback Mike “Neeko” Hnatkowsky throws a pass during last year’s Greg Hennigar Tournament. PHOTO: RYAN NASE

The event has totally changed.

The cause is exactly the same.

For the 15th consecutive year, friends and family of Greg Hennigar will gather for a football tournament. The day serves multiple purposes, but the main one is to honor the Father Judge High School graduate who died in a car crash in 2003.

The first year of the Greg Hennigar Memorial Tournament, it was thrown together in a couple of weeks. His friends held it on his birthday to honor him. It was a good brand of flag football, but it was for adults to get out and run around.

The event has evolved over the years and now it’s a tournament for high school teams to play 7-on-7 and hone their skills for the upcoming season.

“There have been a lot of changes, but we’re there to honor a guy who we all loved,” said Ryan Nase, who played with Hennigar at Judge and is now the athletic director at Tacony Charter and football coach at Cheltenham. “The thing he’d like best about it is that this is a weekend where people could go down the shore or do whatever, but instead it’s kids trying to better their life through football. It’s exactly what he did when he was that age and he would love to see it.”

On Saturday, 12 high school teams, including Father Judge, Frankford, Cheltenham and Penn Charter, will compete, as will six middle school teams.

And for the first time, the tournament will not be held at Judge, but at Cheltenham and will be hosted by the Cheltenham Panthers Football Parent’s Association.

But it will once again give high school coaches a chance to get an early look at how their offense could look when camp opens in August.

“We are looking forward to it because we have good quarterbacks looking to get out there and we’ll be able to take a look at them,” said Penn Charter coach Tommy Coyle, who coached Hennigar when he was at Judge. “It’s a day we look forward to because it’s a chance to see great friends, I love seeing Mr. and Mrs. Hennigar. There are sad moments because we’ll think about Greg, but it’s a mostly happy day because we’re all there.

“It says a lot about Greg and a lot about his former teammates that this tournament is still going strong after 15 years. It shows what kind of people they are.”

This event is Nase’s baby, but he’s quick to point out he has a lot of help.

When the event first started, most of the money from the Hennigar Fund was raised through T-shirt sales and money collected through a beef-and-beer that was scheduled on the night of the tournament.

Now that the event is a high school competition, the bulk of the money comes from sponsors. T-shirts and concessions are available at the outing, but Nase said the community has been quite generous in giving.

“We have two gold sponsors, which goes to groups that donate $1,000 or more,” Nase said. “Greg’s cousin runs a group called 360 Credit Solutions, which handles online credit card processings, so they help in that regard, too, and the Henfey family also are gold sponsors. And we have a lot of other sponsors. That’s where the bulk of our money comes from.”

The more they make, the more they help.

“Most of the people involved in this tournament are Judge guys and we all love Judge, so a lot of the money goes to people involved with Judge,” Nase said. “Another thing we’re going to do is we’re going to donate to a football program coming to Calvary (Athletic Association) run by St. Joe’s Prep coach Gabe Infante called Heads Up. It will help coaches teach kids how to tackle properly and ways to avoid concussions. Something else I’m learning about now that the program focuses on is equipment, making sure it fits, making sure you have the right mouthpiece. Football is a great game, and people want to stay safe. This program helps that.”

Before the teams take the field, however, Nase will show off his bartending skills on Wednesday night at Paddy Whacks, 9241 Roosevelt Blvd., during a fundraiser. Nase will serve as guest bartender, where his tips will go to the Hennigar Fund.

The bar, which is owned by four Judge grads, will also donate a percentage of sales to the fund.

“My speciality? That would be bottled beer,” Nase said. “They put me to work. I wish I was just there to shake hands and kiss babies, but they make me work! It’s a great place with people who really care about Greg and the fund, so they work me hard but I’m good with it.”

Hard work is another thing Hennigar loved.

And according to his former coach, this is the type of event he would have flourished at during his high school career.

“When Greg graduated, he went right out and started working, that’s the kind of person he was,” Coyle said. “It’s a Saturday afternoon in June where kids go out and compete. That’s what Greg did. He was a competitor. We’re looking forward to it.” ••

For more information or to donate to the foundation, visit hennigarmemorial.com/