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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

Chris Wallace is on a Mission

03/02/2018

My family… They started telling me you’ve got to go see what you can really do. That’s more, I just get choked up talking like that…

Chris Wallace

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to interview Florida Tarpons, QB Chris Wallace. For those of you, who don’t know him, he’s a great player and someone I think you’d love to see play. After 18 seasons and at the age of 42, he is actually taking the game more seriously now than he has in a long time. The first time I saw him play was this past season in Richmond. The Roughriders had pretty much destroyed a bunch of semi-pro teams that had shown up in RVA to fill out the schedule, so they hadn’t yet been tested. For Wallace and the Tarpons, this was their first real game together against a good opponent. The Riders dominated the game, but it was easy to see that Wallace was a good player who would have done better if he had been surrounded by a stronger team. As it turned out the Tarpons made the playoffs and had to make the return trip to Virginia for the APF Championship game. In the few weeks since their first game, Florida spent a lot of time working on improving their roster and improving their play on the field. By the time they arrived in Richmond, they were ready to play, and boy did they ever! The game went back and forth all night, and if it hadn’t of been for some spotty special teams play and an untimely tipped ball for a pick 6, Wallace might very well have walked away with the trophy. During the off-season, with the support of the team, and more importantly, his family, Wallace is back and ready to make a serious run at the AAL Championship. He’s intrigued by the level of competition in the new league, and anxious to try to put together a championship winning year.

AF Insider: Hi Chris, thanks for speaking with me today. I’ve seen a bunch of video of you working out this off-season. Tell me about your regimen? Continue reading

Derrick Ross: The Fullback GOAT

02/26/2018

AF Insider:  Hi Derrick, thanks for agreeing to speak with me.  So, I guess the first thing the fans want to know is if you’re going back to Jacksonville?

Ross:  I’ve already signed a contract so it looks like I’m going back to the Sharks.  I have some interest from other teams, other people, and organizations around the league, but for now, it looks like I’m going back with the Sharks.

AF Insider:  You had a pretty good season last year, put up some good stats?

Ross:  I think 25 rushing TD’s and 3 or 4 in the post-season, thanks to my O-line

AF Insider:  What did you think of the NAL’s first year?

Ross:  It was a new league and coming from the AFL you never know what you’re going to get with each player.  Once I figured it out I became loose and like me again.  The talent level is not quite the AFL yet, but it’s a competitive league and I think it’s going to get better.  There were a lot of rookies out there and I’m a vet, so I’m maybe a little advanced on them, but the guys that played last year, I’m sure they’ll get it.

AF Insider:  A couple of the expansion teams have brought in very good veteran QB’s and coaches so it looks like the talent level is being upgraded everywhere.

Ross:  Yeah, that’s good for the league’s competitiveness. It’s going to be a good season, but everybody is still going to have to come through the Sharks. I’m not really concerned about it because we get to play everyone and they still have to see us.  

AF Insider:  Where do you like spending your time?

Ross: Home is Huntsville Texas but could be Philadelphia as well, and I’m in Florida now.  I like spending my time wherever I’m happy.

AF Insider:  That’s very diplomatic, are you going to run for office when you’re done with football?

Ross:  (laughing) No, I’m just being honest I like being happy.  I like Texas, of course, and I like Jacksonville.  I even like Philly so wherever I’m at, I’ve always been happy.  Right now it’s Jacksonville.  I like the organization so, yeah, it’s great to be here. Continue reading

BRADY NELSON: THE SPOKANE SHOCK & the AFL

by Jay Luster

02/20/2018

 At the end of the 2017 IFL season, the Spokane Shock announced they were folding the franchise.  A few weeks later I learned one of their former owner’s, Brady Nelson, was doing some consultant work with the Richmond Roughriders.  Nelson wasn’t with the Shock when they folded, he had departed several seasons earlier, but with his knowledge of arena football and the AFL, in particular, it seemed he would be an interesting interview.  He wasn’t just a little interesting, he blew me away with his knowledge and insight into the league and why they’re struggling.  On the heels of the Jeff Bouchy: State of Arena Football interview, Nelson is the perfect follow up.  Thanks for reading.

 

AF Insider:  Hi Brady, thanks for agreeing to speak with me.  You were the owner of the Spokane Shock but sold the team a few seasons ago.  Why did you decide to sell the Shock?

Brady Nelson:  The Shock started in AF2 and then went into the AFL in 2010.  I sold the team at the end of the 2013 season.  I bought the franchise when I was 27 and built it up.  In my personal opinion, I love the game, I think arena football is great and if AF2 had been able to stick around we would have been happy to remain there.  We had a great following and were sold out for eight consecutive seasons, every game, every seat.  The AFL was heading in an unsustainable direction and I didn’t find enjoyment in it anymore.  I wanted to look for something else and somebody wanted to buy it so it worked out for everybody.  

 

AF Insider:  What happened that made it unsustainable?

Brady Nelson:  The AFL filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and there was uncertainty about ownership of the trademarks.  Our trademarks were going to get swallowed up in bankruptcy, so most of the AF2 teams had to team up and then buy their names and trademarks from the bankruptcy court.  Half the teams in the AFL wanted to shut down permanently, buy their names and trademarks and bury them.  Because of the uncertainty, a handful of AFL owners, and all the AF2 owners joined the bidding and bought the names and trademarks back with the idea of relaunching the AFL and AF2.  In order for that to happen the old AF2 had to go away because it was now owned by a bankrupt entity.  We launched AF1 and the initial concept was to have two tiers, AFL, and a new AF2.  In the process of that, we lost several AF2 teams. They either shut down or moved to a different league.  At one point, Doug MacGregor owned like nine or ten franchises and when he decided not to keep them going it hurt the league.

 

AF Insider:  Yes it did.  Now there are now only four teams left.

Brady Nelson:  Yes, the AFL is a shell of what it used to be.  There were a couple of major things, in my opinion, that was the cause of the demise.  For one, medical costs, to treat the players correctly, are a big deal and when the NFL had their big $450 million concussion settlement you couldn’t get insurance anymore for football.  We had to self-insure and that meant our premiums were dramatic.  For every dollar of player salary, the self-insurance costs skyrocketed.   

 

AF Insider:  So you bought back your trademark and logo and, even without MacGregor’s teams and the league went forward.  What happened next?

Brady Nelson:  From there 2010 launched pretty well, 2011 was a good building year and then 2012 we added more teams and that’s when organized labor came in and attempted to bargain for the players.  That was, in my opinion, the beginning of the end right there.

 

AF Insider:  That was the beginning of the end for the teams in the new AFL, but why did the AFL end up in bankruptcy court, to begin with?

Brady Nelson:  The old AFL was not profitable.  They may have had better revenue because they were in bigger markets, but they were losing money, every single team. They shut their doors because they couldn’t make it work. They wanted to restructure, reorganize. AF1 was an attempt to operate arena football at a level where you could make a profit, whereas the old AFL, which some people see as the glory days, was unsustainable and the heavy heavy losses were unsustainable.

 

AF Insider:  So many teams gone, Orlando, Tampa, Spokane, LA, San Jose, Portland, New Orleans etc. Now there are 2 owners running 4 teams and those teams are losing money?

Brady Nelson:  Correct

 

AF Insider:  With that little participation, and everyone losing money, it’s hardly a league at all, so what’s the purpose? Continue reading

The State of the Arena Football Today, and Tomorrow: A conversation with Jeff Bouchy, the Jacksonville Sharks Operating Manager.

by Jay Luster

02/12/2018

“Consolidation of the leagues is the best future for arena football.”  

Jeff Bouchy

 

AF Insider: Let’s talk about the NAL.  

Jeff Bouchy: It’s unbelievable what’s happening in the NAL. When we kick off on April 7, at 7:01 pm EST, the league will be transformed. We’re going to be the premier league in the country.  

AF Insider: Why do you say that?  

Jeff Bouchy: I’ve been part of the AFL since 1998 and as a fan since 1992. The NHL/NBA model is not working. Tampa and Cleveland left, in part because they don’t want to deal with the Union. The AFL was a great league, but now they’re down to just four teams and on life support.  

AF Insider: Cleveland announced their hiatus was due to stadium issues?  

Jeff Bouchy: That may be what they announced, but in my opinion, it’s about the union. When the union walked out of a game in the spring of the 2012 season in Cleveland, the AFL had to talk them off the ledge. They were infuriated and embarrassed and wanted to cease operations right then and there.  

AF Insider: So what happened in Tampa Bay is also about the labor issues?  

Jeff Bouchy: I want to be clear that this is just my opinion, but I think the ownership in Tampa and also in Cleveland left because they don’t want to deal with the union. I think they feel it’s easier to stop for one or two years and let the AFL sort their labor issues out, rather than be embarrassed again. Listen, camps open in six weeks and as of today, nothing from AFL. Not a good way to treat your fans and teams just can’t succeed like this.  

AF Insider: Labor issues are a big part of the AFL’s difficulties. The current CBA was negotiated in 2012, what can you tell me about it?  

Jeff Bouchy: The CBA was negotiated by myself, John Pettit of Iowa, and Brady Nelson of Spokane on behalf of the AFL. Nobody really understands what it takes to run an arena football team until they do it. In the meetings we had with AFLPU, we offered the head of their organization and their executives their own team to run in any market they wanted. If we were making all this money, then they would have their own pot-of-gold. Well, they were smart guys, and they declined our offer. I personally offered to show them my books, and they even declined that.  

AF Insider: How does labor uncertainty hurt the AFL?  

Jeff Bouchy: Here’s the issue with the AFL. No one in their right mind would join that league as an expansion team because of the labor uncertainty. Also, the AFL has a $1M+ expansion fee, and they offer no training in the operational aspects of running a team. I mean, who is going to pay that much as an expansion fee for the right to lose that much or more per-year. That makes no sense, and it’s why they’re down to three teams.

AF Insider: But didn’t the league just expand to Albany, NY?

Jeff Bouchy: They did, but that franchise is being run by Philadelphia.  

AF Insider: If the AFL collapses after this season, which seems like a definite possibility, do you think whatever teams are left will join the NAL?  

Jeff Bouchy: I think Philadelphia will have no choice in 2019. I guess they could take the Cleveland and Tampa route, but I just don’t see AFL expansion happening. If Washington (Ted Leonsis owns both the Washington Valor and the Baltimore Brigade) can’t keep Cleveland and Tampa in, why would anyone else want to come in? It’s crazy. Heck, if the AFL can’t get it together in the next couple weeks, you may see Philly and Albany join the NAL for this season. We would welcome them too.  

AF Insider: Another league that sees itself as a big league but is also struggling is the IFL.   Continue reading

GREG HARDY SIGNS WITH ROUGHRIDERS

With all the controversy surrounding the Richmond Roughriders signing of former Carolina Panther/Dallas Cowboy DE Greg Hardy, I was granted the privilege of interviewing him. A local columnist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch Newspaper had said the signing of Hardy was not just a risk for the Roughriders, but a risk to all of Richmond. While Hardy does have a checkered past documented all the way back to his college days, it’s not like the guy is Charles Manson. He had both domestic violence and drug convictions against him, which were later expunged from his record as well as a ten game NFL suspension rescinded. Say what you will about the legal system, but Roger Goodell never backtracks on a suspension even when he knows he’s in the wrong. I’m not suggesting Hardy is innocent, on the other hand, he isn’t exactly King Kong on a rampage either. We spoke for about five minutes and below is the edited transcript.  

How did you make contact with the Richmond Roughriders?

I was with (Roughriders Player/Personnel Director) Andrew Germann at a charity event, and we were talking about how I wished I could play the game that I love and be around

the sport. So he asked me if I wanted the opportunity, and I said yeah, I’d love to. I’ve been away from the game a long time. Continue reading

Josh Smith: A Minor Setback for a Major Comeback

by Jay Luster

01/02/2018

Hi Josh, thanks, for agreeing to speak with me today. So you’re with the Triangle Torch, and this upcoming season will be their first in the AAL. Tell me about yourself?

I’m from Birmingham AL. I attended Daniel Payne Middle School, after that I attended P.D. Jackson HS. Then I went to Jacksonville State my first year, and then transferred to UAB (University of Alabama Birmingham). I was there until the program got shut down and canceled.  

After UAB shutdown, what did you do?

I transferred to Arkansas Pine Bluffs. That kind of put a dagger in my recruiting from the NFL.  

That must have been heartbreaking?

I love the game of football, and I’m pretty much blessed to play with the Torch and have another chance to get to the next level. UAB was just a minor setback for a major comeback.

How do you think that’s working out for you?

This past season I believe did a good job. I put up great stats, so I feel as if I’m still getting to the peak. I’m doing whatever it takes to get it to the next level.  

You have played well in Raleigh, but it must have been hard losing the championship game the way you did. Next year, the Torch are playing in the AAL, how do you see that going?

There is going to be a lot of competition in the AAL and we’re going to be great in 2018. We’re owed a championship and next year we will get a ring.  

So you’re predicting a championship?

Well let me just say it’s due time.  

I’m sure Torch fans will be happy to hear that.

(Laughter)   Continue reading

Quarterbacks of the AAL

12/12/2017

By Jay Luster

Somewhere between fighter pilot, infantry brigade commander, and orchestra maestro, you’ll find the quarterback. It’s a singular position in the world of sports. No player on any field, court, or ice can dominate the play and the imagination in quite the same way. From the first moment in the huddle to the referees whistle signaling the end of the play, he’s the guy the fans, cameras, and players of both teams focus on like a laser. He is the Field General, who transmits the plan to the troops then through grit and guile sets the plan in motion and makes the decisions that lead to success or failure. Over the years the indoor world has featured some of the most amazing QB’s to ever take the field on any level of football. This year the upstart American Arena League will feature a group of players who dominated in high school and college, spent time with NFL teams, played in the CFL, and have won championships in the close quarters of arena ball. We’re going to look at the QBs from teams who either won, or were runner-ups, in their league last season, or have improved their roster at the most important position. Continue reading