Featured Players

Tim Viens In His Own Word

Updated 05/08/2018 at 7:22pm

By Jay Luster

05/08/2018

AF Insider: Why did you choose to sell the Bucks

TV:  I wasn’t interested in being back in Vermont for the winter.  It was really tough for my family the year before. It (arena football) is not just March through June, it’s also October through March preparing.  My wife and I live in Florida so it was tough over the winter. I got the opportunity to sell the team to two guys who were in the Massachusetts area and they were in talks with the league about putting a team in Massachusetts or southern New Hampshire and apparently they hadn’t had any luck finding an arena. We had some conversations and they wanted to buy the Bucks so we entered into a purchase agreement sometime around October.  There was a payment structure that was put in place and I was going to get one-third of the ticket sales for the next three years as a part of the deal. We signed the contract and 30 days later they closed the doors and told the arena they weren’t going to play. They hurt a lot of people’s feelings up there and burned several sponsors and it (the sale) burned me out of the ticket sales portion of it for the next three years. It was a tough deal all around.

AF Insider:  There were allegations that there was supposed to be money in bank accounts that they were counting on to run the team but that money was gone.

TV:  No. If you’re buying a business or a team it doesn’t come with a bunch of cash in the bank.  There are obviously two sides to every story and it’s usually somewhere down the middle, that isn’t exactly what happened. I am in the process right now, my attorney in Florida is going to partner with a firm in Vermont because the corporation was in Vermont.  We’re going to be filing a lawsuit against Tom Sturgis and Kyle Jennings. All of my research into these guys shows they are frauds. All of the bank statements they showed us, his business worth two million dollars I think is complete BS. Kyle lives in an apartment and Tom lives in a single-wide trailer. My chance of recovering anything is probably close to nil, but you know what? At this point, it’s about making a point and showing people I was in the right. Continue reading

Eddie Verrett: Becoming a Hero

Out of college, Eddie Verrett thought he would go right into the NFL, and his future would be assured. Like the overwhelming vast majority of college players, it didn’t work out that way. He got looked at by a couple of teams and was a member of the Dallas Cowboys practice squad for a while, but the 6’3” 250 pound DE was eventually cut.  He moved to Louisiana to stay with his mom and found work, but never really felt comfortable with his situation.  Eddie decided he wanted to return to Virginia where he had attended high school. He had a girlfriend there, and they had a baby together so he decided that being in his daughters’ life was the best thing he could do for everyone including himself. After the move, he began working out to try to get another chance at the NFL which is when he got a call from the Atlanta Vultures. He’d never played arena ball before, but he knew what it was and decided to give it a shot, but once again, things didn’t go as planned.

AF Insider: Hi Eddie, thanks for speaking with me. If you don’t mind, I’d like to speak with you about your experience in arena football. I know it hasn’t always been good and I think your fans will be interested in your story.

EV: Yeah, no problem man, and thanks. I was in Norfolk working out, and I got a phone call from an AIF arena team called the Atlanta Vultures. I knew about arena football but had never played. I’m from Louisiana, so I knew about the Voodoo and the AFL. My first year in arena ball was with Atlanta, but it wasn’t a good operation. I didn’t get paid; we had no gym, no proper nourishment and on the first day of practice, we ran so much that I became shaky. We ran and ran for like three hours, just running, and I became dehydrated. We had no water, no trainers, no physicals, and they just ran us. It was crazy. We did it again on the second day, not quite as much, but we just ran and ran. On the third day, I got to the parking lot and began feeling like I was catching the flu or something. I was sitting in my car, and I wrapped myself up because I was feeling cold, but it was super-hot outside. I was dehydrated  

It may seem counterintuitive, but dehydration can bring on chills. “This occurs because your body starts to limit blood flow to the skin. In addition, water holds heat, so if you become dehydrated it can be more difficult to regulate your body temperature, which can make you become chilled faster, even when you’re not in a cold environment.” Dr. Podesta, Health.com

AF Insider: Dehydration can be very dangerous. Korey Stringer, a player for the Vikings, died from extreme dehydration. What did you do?
EV: I called my agent, and he set up an appointment for me at Emory Hospital. I was diagnosed with dehydration and muscle exhaustion. Over those two days, I went from 250 down to 240. I was lucky I had family in the area to help me through that. When I returned to camp, the owner/player was an offensive lineman, and we were doing one on ones, not outside moves, just head to head and I kept pushing him back. I’d lost a lot of weight and strength, but I kept pushing him back. He was 300 lbs and I was down to 240 and that was embarrassing for him. A couple of days later, I got a call from the coach who said he loved me, but the owner didn’t really care for me. Unfortunately, a lot of things went under the table. They owed me money for the hospital bills, and I never saw a cent of it.  
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UNDRA HENDRIX EXPLAINS SLIDE PROTECTION

03/28/2018

NAL ALL-STAR AND LEHIGH VALLEY STEELHAWK, UNDRA HENDRIX

Interviewing players and coaches creates an interesting dilemma for me as a journalist. I know a lot about football, but clearly not everything. Every now and then, someone will use a term, I either don’t know, or I do know, but not necessarily enough to write about. After all, if I don’t understand a subject how can I write about it in a clear and concise way the readers will understand. When I run into this situation, I stop the interview and have my subject explain the term to me. I see it as a learning opportunity and I’ve benefited from speaking with some of the smartest people in the sport. Not long ago I was messaging with my friend, Lehigh Valley Full Back, NAL All-Star, Undra Hendrix, and picking his brain about some bit of terminology or another when we realized we had an opportunity to help fans to understand arena football a little bit better.

A coach of a team who’d just watched his QB get knocked around for 60 minutes told me the offensive line wasn’t communicating with each other very well. I pressed him for an explanation, and he said they weren’t always sliding the same way, and it was creating rushing lanes and ruining their passing game. Anyone at the game could easily see the huge holes in the O-line, and I already knew the term Slide Protection, but I only had a general understanding of what it meant. It’s pretty obvious that everyone on the O-line needs to know who they’re going to block on every play but how is that determined? Confusion on even one play could be the difference between winning and losing. I haven’t played football since I was a little kid, and I immediately realized I didn’t know enough about the term to write about it in a way my readers deserve; enter Undra. I asked him to explain the term, and this is our conversation.

AF Insider: Hi Undra, as a fullback I know you’re an integral part of the blocking scheme, and I was wondering if you could explain to me what “Slide Protection” is? Continue reading

Undra “The Wrecking Ball” Hendrix

09/28/2017

Undra Hendrix is the latest free agent addition of the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks. Last season his hard nosed running while playing Fullback for the High Country Grizzlies drew rave reviews from every corner of the league. While the Grizzlies struggled with injuries at key positions all over the field, Undra showed up every game, moved the chains, and scored 12 TDs. Despite his team winning only three games,Hendrix performance was good enough for 2nd team All-NAL. After the season ended and he became a prized free agent, Hendrix entertained offers from the AAL, CIF, and the NAL. Deciding to remain in the NAL, he chose Lehigh Valley for, among other reasons, the chance to play with NAL MVP QB Warren Smith Jr.. Said Undra, “I had to decide what would be the best situation and for me. That meant having a QB. I’ve never won a championship, and so it was going to be Columbus or Lehigh. You know they’re both going to be right there at the end, but with Warren, I just felt like Lehigh was the better fit for me.”  

Despite his success running the ball indoors, as a student at Carrolton Ranchview High School in the northwest edge of Dallas, he played both Quarterback and Middle Linebacker. He said, “In my senior year, I did everything. The best time I had was playing MLB. Reading the keys and being the captain of the defense was pretty cool.” In his senior year, they switched him to the defensive line, and he said, “Putting my hand in the dirt and having to learn all of those pass rusher moves was kind of an adjustment.” After high school, Hendrix attended Division 3, Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas. The coaching staff kept him on the defensive line and in his senior year, he broke the single-season sack’s record for DTs and was named as an All-American. While he admits he had a great season, He is quick to point out, “the team didn’t do as well as I’d have liked.” Continue reading

Jake Metz: Working Towards the Dream

Almost all indoor/arena football players hope to play in the NFL. It’s a goal they’ve all had since they were little kids playing Pop Warner football. A few become stars, but most ply their trade in relative anonymity. With guys like Lincoln Kennedy, Tommy Maddox, and Rashied Davis, the league has always had a sprinkling of players who cut their teeth indoors before getting back outdoors. Jake Metz is working hard to make the Buffalo Bills. He’s had a couple of opportunities in the past with Detroit, and the Philadelphia Eagles, but this is really the first time he’s had a sustained opportunity for NFL coaches to get a long look at him among the highest quality competition. In 2016, with the Soul, he put up 7.5 sacks and was named First Team All-Arena, and AFL Defensive Lineman of the Year. His dominance on the defensive front was one of the reasons why his team won the Arenabowl. Now, with the Bills, Metz is getting his shot, and he’s doing everything he can to make the most of it.   

Speaking with Metz this past Wednesday, I found a man tightly focused on the tall task of making an NFL team. At first, he seemed reluctant to speak with me, but soon warmed up and mixed in bits of dry humor with his NFL rookie canned answers. You can’t blame the guy for being shy. With his professional future on the line, speaking with any reporter is probably the last thing he wanted to do. Having said that, he did speak with me and for that I am grateful.   Continue reading

Is Chris Dixon II the Best Ever?

07/20/2017

“Losers put up numbers because they’re always playing from behind. When a winner put ups numbers it’s because he is expected to put up the numbers to help the team win”  

This past season the Texas Revolution suddenly found themselves without a Quarterback. Robert Kent who earned the Champions Indoor Football League MVP award in 2016, was felled by an injury during training camp just days before the opening game of the 2017 season. Team officials, including NFL Hall of Famer Tim Brown and team Owner and IFL Hall of Famer Tommy Benizio knew they needed someone who could lead, but not just any QB would do. Sure there were a lot of free-agents available, including some who were pretty good, but the top brass doubted any of them could lead the team to a championship. Under Robert Kent, the Revs had won the Southern Division by two games, but were eventually defeated by rival Amarillo in the playoffs. The team believed itself ready to take the next step, but without Kent, the odds were long. Enter Chris Dixon II. Dixon had been an extraordinary player in his time and had the resume to prove it. In his first season, he won the NAFL Rookie of the Year, the NAFL Championship, and was the Championship Game MVP. He went on to add six more championships, four more MVP awards, and in 2016, he was inducted into the IFL Hall of Fame. The problem was he had retired as a player in 2014, and had become the Head Coach of the Billings Wolves. That team folded after the 2016 season which meant Dixon was possibly available. The call went out, and Dixon answered. What happened next was just one more incredible chapter in Dixon’s book full of incredible stories.  

NAL MVP Warren G. Smith Jr.

 

The Lehigh Valley Steelhawks were formed in 2011 as an IFL expansion team. In 2013 they defected to a new league called the PIFL. While there, they encountered a young QB named Warren G. Smith Jr.. Smith had graduated from Maine and went undrafted by the NFL in the 2012. After that he was invited to play with The Dresden Monarchs in the German Football League. When his season concluded in Europe, he returned to the USA and latched on with the 2013 Richmond Raiders, an arena football team in the PIFL. That season he led the team to the championship game. While the Raiders lost to the Alabama Hammers, their total record of 8-6 included three victories over the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks. The Steelhawks are owned by Glenn Clark, and coached by Chris Thompson, who got a good look at the young signal caller. The following season Warren was signed to play with The Trenton Freedom. The Freedom were an expansion team in the PIFL, and they put together a roster and coaching staff strong enough to take them to the championship game. For the second time in as many years, Warren’s team lost. This time the winning team was Lehigh Valley, so Mr. Clark and Coach Thompson got yet another long

 look at the QB who was tearing up their league. What they and the fans saw in 2014, was the PIFL MVP. Warren completed 64% of his passes for more than 1800 yards and 32 TDs. Despite the loss in the championship game, the young man left an indelible impression on the Steelhawks brass. Once the season was over Warren returned to the AFL where he played for the Spokane Shock. He said, “In 2015, I went to Spokane and played a full season out there and learned a lot and enjoyed it. I got to start in like 7 or 8 games, which was really cool.”

After his experience at Spokane, Smith returned home. He said, “I took a teaching job at the end of 2015, and I played with the Philadelphia Continue reading

AFL Legend JJ Raterink

06/25/2017

By Jay Luster

“I’d call home and say what did you do today and they’d say they did their 9-5 and they’d ask well what did you do? And I’d say well I can’t talk long because I just got done doing a photoshoot where I was telling Gene Simmons where to stand so he didn’t block my light and now I’ve got to go to his house now for dinner.”

Former LA Kiss QB JJ Raterink

AFL long time QB JJ Raterink

One of the biggest problems for arena football at all levels is the difficulty teams have in holding talent together for very long.  All time greats  like Aaron Garcia and Clint Dolezal played for a combined 32 years and a total of 19 teams.  Player contracts are almost always for one year and with the institutional uncertainty inherent to virtually all leagues, there is no guarantee the team you play for this year will even exist next year.  While this unpredictability has harmed the national appeal of the sport and stunted its growth as a major league attraction, there still is no shortage of players, teams, and leagues.  The leagues and teams exist for the same reason that all businesses exist, to make money, but the players are almost always working towards their NFL goal.

After JJ Raterink’s college career at Wyoming came to a close and the NFL didn’t come calling he realized, if he intended to continue playing football it would have to be indoors.  Between 2006 and 2011 he played for 5 different teams. Then, in 2012 he joined the Iowa Barnstormers.  That season he set franchise records for both yardage and touchdowns.  Those records were set and held by NFL Hall of Famer Kurt Warner, and Arena Football League great Aaron Garcia.  In 2014 Raterink joined the LA Kiss where he became nationally known through the AMC reality tv show 4th and Loud.  The show followed the Kiss throughout their tumultuous and futile first season.  While JJ wasn’t the main attraction of the show, that dubious honor would go to Managing Partner Brett Bouchy, being the QB of a team with their own weekly show did shove him into a spotlight brighter than he’d ever experienced before.  Like all great leaders, when the inaugural season turned into an unmitigated disaster JJ was quick to point out that he could have played better Perhaps that’s true, but anyone familiar with the LA story would be hard pressed to point the finger at him.

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