Coaches

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

Stephanie Tucker, Amarillo Venom Owner and GM

10/05/2017

“Sometimes I’m like come on Nate, throw a couple of more touchdown passes!”

Stephanie Tucker

The Champions Indoor Football League came about as a merger between the Champions Professional Indoor Football League and the Lone Star Football League. One of the CIF’s founding members is a good-natured and strong-willed woman by the name of Stephanie Tucker. Her team, the Amarillo Venom, was initially founded by Randy Sanders. The Venom began life as the Amarillo Dusters in 2003, and played with the Intense Football League. Putting together a 13-3 record, they won their league championship in 2004. The next season the Dusters joined AF2 and against the higher-level, competition finished 8-8. They made the playoffs but then lost in the semi-finals to the eventual Arena Cup winning Memphis Xplorers. After AF2 fell apart, the fans of the Dusters urged the team to join the Indoor Football League instead of AF1. Because the AFL owned the Dusters nickname, the team decided to call itself the Venom. After two seasons in the IFL Sanders sold the team to Tucker, who became one of the founding members of the Lone Star Football League. The team, co-owned by her husband Toby and coached by Julian Reese, compiled a 22-16 record and won the league championship twice. After the 2014 season Tucker, along with Ricky Bertz and Darlene Jones, merged the LSFL with the Champions Indoor Football League to form  the CIF. Since then, the Venom has put together a record of 24-12 and made the playoffs each year. Though they haven’t won their championship yet, their W/L record has improved each season. While it isn’t unprecedented for a woman to own an indoor/arena football team, it is still a bit unusual. Even more unusual is to have the kind of stunning on-field success her team has had. Since becoming the owner seven years ago the team has had only one losing season. Counting their time in the LSFL, their overall record after seven seasons is 46-28. During that span, they’ve made the playoffs six times, made it to the championship game three times, and won it twice. Their 7-3 playoff record along with their overall .621 winning percentage places them among the elite of indoor/arena football . Only the IFL’s Sioux Falls Storm can boast a better record over a longer period of time than the Venom. When asked about her team’s success, she said, “You know what? We’ve been very blessed. I’m not going to lie. It’s been a nice ride.”   Continue reading

Jay Gruden, From AFL QB to NFL HC

Jay Gruden is the Head Coach of the Washington Redskins. He came on board in 2014 following the departure of Mike Shanahan. Shanahan led the Skins to the playoffs in 2012, but in 2013 their play fell off enough that it prompted ownership to make a change. They interviewed and hired Jay Gruden, who is the younger brother of former NFL head coach and Super Bowl winner Jon Gruden. Before coming to the Skins he spent many years as an NFL assistant most notably as the Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator. While in Cincinnati, he helped quarterback, Andy Dalton find his rhythm and helped lead the team to the playoffs. Though Cincinnati hasn’t had a lot of playoff success in recent years, Daniel Snyder the owner of the Skins felt Gruden had shown a deft hand helping the young quarterback to grow. The Redskins had recently committed to Kirk Cousins, and Snyder felt a change would do him good.  

Of course, as you all well know, Gruden is Arena Football royalty. As a player, he won four championships in Tampa as their QB and two in Orlando as a head coach. With the Redskins training camp being held here in Richmond, I asked for and was granted the opportunity to interview him for a few minutes. I want to thank Zena Lewis and Tony Wylie from the Redskins media office for making this possible.

You were with the Nashville Kats as their offensive coordinator?

JG: Right. Then I went to Orlando as the head coach I played for Tampa and Orlando then I came back to coach for Orlando.

I recently spoke with Jeff Bouchy from the Jacksonville Sharks, and he said when Orlando hired you as head coach the team received death threats?  

JG: I don’t know about all that, but Tampa, and Orlando was a big rivalry, as good a rivalry as there is in AFL history. It was kind of odd for someone from Tampa to be the head coach in Orlando. It’s like someone from Dallas becoming head coach here, just to a smaller extent. After we won it all in my first year, I think they started liking me a little bit better. Had I lost I probably would have been out of there pretty quick.

Has the experience of coaching in arena football helped you in the NFL?

JG: I think coaching or playing no matter what sport you’re in; you have to motivate people and try to get the best out of them. Whether it’s 8 on 8 or 11 on 11, you try to get players who fit your scheme. At the end of the day, in my opinion, it’s all about personnel. You do the best job you can scouting for and getting the best players on your team and then coach in the best way you can. We teach them how to play situational football, and sound fundamental football and let them play. We have more players here, but it’s similar. Obviously, the concepts of offense and defense are totally different. They don’t carry over whatsoever, but as far as getting guys to play the game fundamentally sound and all that stuff it’s pretty much the same.

So really, coaching is coaching at all levels of football. Have any arena guys made your team?

JG: We have Attauyo “Ty” Nsekhe who is our backup tackle. He’s played a lot of minutes for us. He’s bounced around a bit. He’s been on like 4 or 5 different teams. Other than that I don’t think we have anybody that’s played arena ball. We worked out a guy, the running back from the Arizona Rattlers (Darrell Monroe) this past year. They won the championship in the IFL. We ended up not signing him, but he’s on our short list, and we may bring him back. Other than that we haven’t got anybody else. Continue reading

Bringing Football to The High Country

By Jay Luster

07/17/2017

“Once you’ve seen an arena football game in person, you’re not going to miss another game if you have the opportunity to go.”
High Country Grizzlies Head Coach Josh Resignalo

On State Route 421, about an hour and half west of Winston-Salem. North Carolina is the small town of Boone. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Watauga County seat is also the location of Appalachian State University. On campus, is the 6200 seat arena called The George M. Holmes Convocation Center. The Holmes Center is used primarily for the Appalachian State Mountaineers NCAA Division 1 basketball, and volleyball teams. Another team calling the building home is a charter member of the National Arena League, The High Country Grizzlies. Boone itself is a town of 17,000 people, but when school is in session, the population swells to more than double that number. You would think a community that small would make it difficult for a team to garner enough support to survive, but that’s not the case. Head Coach of the Grizzlies Josh Resignalo said, “The team did a great job creating partnerships within the community. We had The Coaches Show, and all our games were replayed on cable TV on Friday night, so we have a good business model.” The real problem facing all brand-new teams is getting people to turn out for the games. Resignalo continued, “some of our games had around 2700 people, which is pretty good for a first-year team. The main owner, Donald Thompson, understands if you don’tbuild a business structure properly you’re not going to have a team. At the end of the day, the community supported us. We had around a hundred sponsors, so we’ve laid a good foundation to build the fan base.” Continue reading

Coach Reggie McAvoy Shipp

By Jay Luster

Coach Shipp with the MAIFL Divisional and Championship trophies

Like almost all sports arena football requires a great deal of player development.  That void is filled by what is considered semi-pro leagues and teams.  While the level of football can be decidedly lower than what fans have come to expect from teams like the Jacksonville Sharks or Iowa Barnstormers, it is an extremely important step for many of the players who will eventually fill up their rosters. Oftentimes great football players don’t get to play college ball but they refuse to give up their dreams.  Entities like the Mid-Atlantic Indoor Football League give them a place to broaden their experience and continue to participate in the sport they love.  On this level it really is for the love of the game.   Continue reading