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.
It seems like most arena/indoor players are working towards getting into the NFL. You are in camp with the Buffalo Bills and have a genuine shot at making the team so you are living the dream?
JM: Yes, of course. When I came out of Shippensburg University, I had an opportunity with the Detroit Lions that was short-lived. I was an undrafted free agent out of college and went to rookie mini camp with them. After that ended I had some arena football teams call me. I’m a hometown guy, so I chose Philadelphia, and I was there for two seasons. We had a great year my second year. We won the Arenabowl. I had a chance to play with the Eagles in preseason at the end of last year, but I was released. Then I went over and played arena ball in China for their first year, when I came home my agent said I had a workout with the Buffalo Bills, and they signed me back in April.
How is camp going for you?
JM: It’s going good. I’m learning everyday it’s a professional atmosphere, and the coaches are awesome. I’m learning every single day, and I’m getting better. It feels good to get back outside and play outdoor football. It’s the game I’ve been playing since I was a kid, so I’m excited to be in camp getting this chance.
In Philadelphia, you did a lot of rushing from the Mac linebacker position, will you be playing any linebacker in the NFL
JM: No, right now it’s strictly defensive end and special teams.
When is the first preseason game? Are you playing with the starters?
JM: The first game is next Thursday, but I’m not playing with the starters. I’ve never been on this team before, and it’s hard to bring in a guy and say you’re a starter. That’s my situation.
Unless you’re an early round draft choice, you generally don’t come into situations where you get to be a starter right away, but it doesn’t matter how you got there. You’ve had your ticket punched, and now you’re there.
JM: Exactly, I took a different path than a lot of guys for sure.
What do you find similar between the NFL and Arena Football?
JM: It’s football. It’s the same sport just different rules, so I have the same mentality that I have every time I put the pads on. From that aspect, it’s still football regardless.
I know this is probably not the time to talk about this but have you thought about what you would do if you didn’t make the team?
JM: That’s not where my focus is. My focus right now is on the special teams meeting I have in an hour. My main goal is to make the team. The coaches are saying I’m getting better everyday so that’s all I can do. I’m just going to keep learning and get better every day and continue doing whatever they need me to do. I’m taking this one step at a time. I’m ready to compete, and I’m excited to have this opportunity.
The AFL seems to be having a difficult time sustaining itself?
JM: No comment (laughing) I really have no idea what goes on in the league offices, but I keep up with my guys back in Philadelphia.
The NAL seems to be on the rise, and the AFL seems to be sinking a bit, that seems a little sad.
JM: It’s really sad. Considering the amount of work those guys put in and the pay they get back, it doesn’t add up. It is kind of sad, but guys play because they really love football.
How was China?
JM: It was fun. It was basically a paid vacation. I got to travel around China and do what I love, so it was awesome.
Aside from playing, did you get to see any of the sights?
JM: It was pretty unbelievable to visit the Great Wall of China. It’s just a huge wall that you can’t comprehend until you actually see it first hand. The hills are just so steep, and so long. To think they got those giant blocks up there to build a wall that is that big is unbelievable. Every city we traveled to, wherever we were, we got a chance to venture out a little bit. Every other week we’re somewhere new and it was a lot of fun to be able to travel around China.
What did you study in college?
JM: I studied sociology.
Sociology? Are you going into politics when your football life is done?
JM: No (laughing) probably not. Football is my passion, and that’s all I’m thinking about.
Thanks for speaking with me Jake. I wish you the best of luck until you play the Patriots then I hope you get your ass kicked.
JM: (laughing) unprintable.