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.  

AF Insider: So what happened next?

EV: After that, I took the rest of the year off and spent my time working out and training. Then, in 2017 I got my shot with the Torch. They called me and said they knew some teams that were interested in signing me. I had been contacted by the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks, and I knew about their program, but they were far away from my daughter, and I didn’t want to be away from her. Raleigh is closer to the Norfolk area, and it was also pretty easy to get to Jacksonville to see my father, and I could cut through Atlanta to get home to Louisiana. I decided that was where I wanted to be, so I got in touch with Coach McKinney, and we took it from there.

AF Insider: What happened in Raleigh?

EV: At the time when I first got in there everything was wonderful. The housing was cool, the food; everything was good. But then one of the owners began to feel the other owner wasn’t doing his part, and he was doing everything on his own. He had to think about his family and put them first, so he left. When he left, things started coming apart. I’m not bad mouthing those guys, but if someone is paying, and then he walks away you can’t think everything is going to be cool, and there won’t be any issues or problems.  

AF Insider: The Torch was a good team, and it must have felt pretty bad when things started going sideways?

EV: It felt like a dynasty was falling. Everything felt like it was crumbling around us, but we still held strong. We went out there and was getting it done, but then, after everything, losing the championship game made it feel like everything was for nothing.  

AF Insider: So it started crumbling for you personally when the team started having money problems?

EV: It didn’t start off that way, but it was like that towards the end. A lot of us were owed money, and I wanted to walk away. I began to feel like the other owners didn’t care. I had lost my Uncle in a motorcycle accident in New Orleans.  Me and him were really close. He was in his late 40’s and was one of my younger uncles, and he was more like an older brother.  

Af Insider: I’m sorry that happened, will you tell me about it?

EV: We were playing the Richmond Roughriders, and something wasn’t sitting right in my spirit. Later after I got home to Norfolk, my Mom told me my uncle had passed, and it really broke my heart. The next game was against the Upstate Dragons, and I was missing my uncle. I knew I needed to see this man one more time before he was buried so at the last moment, I booked a ticket. We had our walk through and I asked my teammates if it would be bad for me to leave, and they said no man, go bury your uncle. My coaches knew, but I didn’t get one phone call, a text or nothing. I felt like they didn’t care, they were only interested in getting the win, at least that’s the way it felt.  

AF Insider: Even with the turmoil, the Torch still made it to the championship game?

EV: Coach McKinney did so much to try to keep things together so we could win the championship. He worked hard, and I respect that man.  

AF Insider: So I’m assuming you have the May 5, 2018 game with the Torch circled on your calendar?

EV: (Laughter) I want everybody to be successful, and I have nothing but love for those guys. I was bitter for a moment, but I let that go. My mother talked to me about it, and the coaches here did too (Cape Fear) and I let it go.  

AF Insider: Let’s talk about Cape Fear. How did things start with you and the team?

EV: We were heading into the championship game and my uncle had just died, and I didn’t feel I was being treated right. I got hurt mid-

Verrett recovers a fumble scores

game, but I came back and played pretty well. We lost, but after the game, I found Miss Barbara (Cape Fear Heroes Owner Barbara Spigner), and I gave her a hug and told her good game and congratulated her, and Crystal (GM Crystal Spigner) After the game, I talked to their coaches, and to some of their guys. Coach Gunnings asked how I was doing, and I said fine and he said, “No Eddie, how are you really doing?” I told him I wasn’t doing too well, and I told him about my uncle and the money I was owed and it was just a lot. He said, “Man, look here.” Then he came out of his own pocket to give me some funds to buy some food. This man had just beaten me in the championship, and he didn’t have to do it. Later, the players invited me to come to the hotel to sit down eat, and relax and get my mind off of things and that really opened my eyes. I spoke with (Heroes OC) Coach Jon Hall, and he said, “Good game, good season. You were always messing up my run.” I said, “So bring me in!.”  

AF Insider: When did you actually sign with the team?

EV: During the off season, the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks wanted to sign me, and the Torch also wanted to bring me back. They kept saying things will get better; things will get better. The truth is, I liked Raleigh, and I would have gone back with the Torch. I spoke with Miss Crystal; we had grown a professional relationship as a GM and player. She told me they were in the process of getting things together, and that’s why I hadn’t heard anything. In July, I got a phone call from Coach Guns.  He wanted to know what I was doing? I told him I had been working out, and the Torch wanted to resign me, and I had Lehigh Valley and a couple of other teams. He said, “Now you’ve got another team, and you’ve got a choice to make.” They sent me over my contract, and I looked at it and it was so well put together, very professional. The contract from the Torch, it didn’t look professional. I knew Lehigh Valley had a good program, and I was thinking if I wanted to go away I wouldn’t want to play anywhere else, but I wanted to stay close, so I signed on the dotted line with Cape Fear and it took off from there.  

AF Insider: You’ve mentioned Cape Fear’s professionalism a couple of times, that seems really important to you.

EV: I want to play for people who deserve my respect, and the way they run everything I felt I could give them my trust and my loyalty. I felt like I had to come play here.  

AF Insider: It sounds like despite everything that went on you still felt some loyalty to the Torch?

EV: With Cape Fear, I feel like I get the respect I was meant to get. In Raleigh, I was constantly having to call and ask about my money, when am I going to get my money? They kept pushing me off, and I never got the money I was owed. When I called them and told them I was going to Cape Fear, I think they didn’t believe I would actually go. Then when they saw my announcement on Facebook, and on the Heroes website and the league website that’s when things really started getting heated between me and them. It felt like a family situation, you know family bump heads, and we got into some word swapping. We got past that and now it’s all positive vibes. Leaving Raleigh was hard, but I had to do what was best for me and my family. I respect Cape Fear because of how they run their program and how they treat their players. They really have created a family with an unconditional love oriented bond, They don’t just treat us like as athletes, get us in and get us out, they treat us like we’re their sons. It’s wonderful being here and we’re working hard, and I feel good.   

AF Insider:  One last thing before I let you go, tell me about your daughter?

EV:  Oh man (laughter) She’s my inspiration, she’s why I keep going. She’s a great kid, a great daughter, she’s really spoiled! I spoil my daughter to death.  She motivates me to want to do this (NFL dream) Everything I get goes home to her.

 

Verrett played in the first game of 2018 with the Heroes vs. The High Country Grizzlies.  The Heroes blew out the Grizzlies and Verrett had a sack, and a fumble recovery for a TD. Last year he was the SIF sacks leader and earned both the Defensive Lineman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Awards.