The Indoor Football League will kick off its 10th season next Friday when the Nebraska Danger and Cedar Rapids Titans face off. It’s also a week until the Arizona Rattlers begin their road to a repeat as champions.
Last season, the Rattlers left the Arena Football League and joined the Indoor Football League. After an 0-2 start, Arizona would go to win 12 of their final 14, including their final 11 games, to be the #1 seed in the Intense Conference.
They would defeat the Danger in the Intense Conference Championship game and would advance to United Bowl IX to face off against the six-time defending champion Sioux Falls Storm. This would be the biggest challenge of their first season in the IFL.
When it came to the game, they dominated the first half. They held a 34-7 halftime lead. It looked as if they were going to run with it. That wasn’t the case, however. The Storm would shut out the Rattlers 21-0 in the third and make it a 34-28 game headed into the final frame.
Arizona would prevail, however, and win United Bowl IX by a final score of 60-51. They dethroned the storm, who hadn’t been dethroned since 2010.
Now, they will look to run the six-team league once more, and it will be easier than it was before.
They will be led by 2017 IFL Rookie of the Year Verlon Reed, Jr. Quarterback Kody Sokol will be playing football overseas and Darron Thomas is no competition to Reed, so expect him to win that starting job. He led the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles in passing [of course] and rushing. He is a huge key to their success.
Also returning to the team will be wide receiver Anthony Amos who has been a key in the passing game for Arizona over the last few seasons. He is also a contributor in the special teams game, as he can return kicks.
They’ve also acquired and re-signed several key players on defense, such as defensive back James Calhoun (five pick-sixes last season), defensive back Allen Chapman (led league in passes defended, second in INTs (8)) and United Bowl IX MVP Justin Shirk (7.5 sacks).
Arizona’s road to repeat begins next Sunday, Feb. 25, when they host the Storm in a rematch of United Bowl IX. They, along with the other five teams in the league, will be looking to win United Bowl X, which is scheduled to be played the weekend of July 7.
Independence, Mo. - How does 2017 CIF MVP Donovan Porterie feel about the squad he had surrounding him with the Duke City Gladiators? He was so comfortable in the pocket that he followed it to Kansas City this offseason, joining his offensive coordinator and entire offensive line on the Phantoms’ preseason roster.
“Donovan is not just an incredible athlete, he’s a great quarterback and leader,” said Phantoms General Manager and Head Coach Meadow Lemon. “Having had the opportunity to work with him in 2017, I’m excited to be able to bring him here and give Kansas City fans to have the opportunity to see him perform.”
Portiere (6’4”, 225) is an eight-year veteran of the indoor game, with a couple of stints with the IFL’s Green Bay Blizzard sandwiching a year in the Arena Football League with the Spokane Shock, where he played in relief of injured former AFL MVP Erik Meyer.
Last year, in his MVP campaign with Duke City, Porterie led the CIF with 3,010 passing yards and was second in the league with 63 passing touchdowns. He also completed 265 of 435 passes (60.9%) on his way to an efficiency rating of 159.5.
Porterie joins the rest of the Phantoms in training camp, opening February 22, 2018 at Epic Sports Lodge, 19310 E 50th Terrace, Independence, Missouri. The season kicks off on March 16 at 7:05 p.m. at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena against the Omaha Beef. Tickets are available at http://kcphantoms.com/.
Before Iowa Barnstormers quarterback Drew Powell went into training camp, he spoke with Arena Football Talk about his plans for the upcoming season.
Q: How do you feel you fit in Iowa?
A: I feel like I'm a great fit in Iowa, great coaching staff, veteran receivers. I couldn't ask for a better situation.
Q: You’ll be competing with Travis Partridge for the starting job. Do you feel confident in your ability to win the starting job?
A: I'm a competitor to the core, and it brings out the best in me. My job is to come in and work hard, put my best foot forward everyday and we'll let the rest take care of itself.
Q: If the team asks, will you be open to changing positions?
A: Throughout my conversations with the staff, we never spoke about me changing positions. As much as I fantasize about catching touchdowns or making tackles in the open field, I'm a quarterback.
Q: Why did you leave Nebraska?
A: When coach Chinn was let go, I didn't feel like I was a part of the future plans in Nebraska.
Q: With Sioux Falls having won six consecutive United Bowl titles before Arizona joined, do you think Iowa is a competitor this season?
A: We are definitely a competitor this season, no doubt about it. This is a team that's already proven they know how to win. It's time to take that next step, the goal is a championship.
Q: What are your goals in Iowa?
Q: What do you feel are your best strengths?
A: Knowledge of the game, arm talent, athleticism, and my competitive spirit.
Q: Who is your role model?
A: Steve Mcnair... Rest In Peace
All the mysteries and rumors surrounding the arena football world may be related to each other in one big plan. It appears the Arena Football League (AFL) will be folding as they can't come to an agreement with the CBA. If the AFL does close up shop those four teams could join the National Arena League (NAL). The AFL shutting down could mean a chance to revive it with a new business model...but on the west coast.
In November, the San Jose SaberCats tweeted a response to someone who asked if they were coming back replying not yet, but that there'd be more information after the first of the year. This reply created some buzz speculating they may be joining the IFL or even joining a new league. You may ask what new league? A rumor has been going around that a new west coast based league is forming.
Last August, Tucson, AZ-based group Integrity Sports Management tweeted out they were getting close to an announcement about having an arena football franchise there. However, as of late January it appears the group is pursuing a franchise in the new XFL. In December, a new Las Vegas franchise named the Cobras surfaced. The Cobras are said to be exploring the Indoor Football League (IFL) and Champions Indoor Football (CIF) for 2019. The Idaho Horsemen are also deciding between the IFL and CIF for 2019. Ever since the Portland Thunder were taken over by the AFL and rebranded the Steel it was rumored the Thunder could come back as an IFL franchise in 2018 if the AFL's Steel folded. The Thunder would be able to do this since Terry Emmert, owner of the Thunder bought the trademark so the league had to rebrand the team when they took over. Later on, it was then rumored Terry Emmert was in talks with the IFL to bring the Thunder in, but nothing ultimately came of this.
The Arizona Rattlers, who currently compete in the Indoor Football League (IFL) could be part of this, as well. After joining the IFL they knocked off the six-time defending United Bowl champion Sioux Falls Storm. The Storm, along with the Wichita Falls Nighthawks tried joining Champions Indoor Football (CIF) after last season. In the CIF, the West Michigan Ironmen and Bloomington Edge had signed on for the 2018 season but then left for the IFL. This led to a lawsuit by the CIF for breach of contract. The Storm ended up rejoining the IFL while the Nighthawks ceased operations. During all this it was stated at one point how Arizona's coach, Kevin Guy was frustrated after the IFL lost teams, just like what happened in the AFL which caused them to join the IFL. Additionally, the Rattlers are quite a ways from the other IFL franchises which begs the question could they be a founding member of a new west coast based AFL?
One last rumor to note is how the current AFL mentioned Sacramento as an expansion target. Even though nothing came of Sacramento, could they be one of the teams in a new west coast based AFL?
All these things make you wonder if there's a group of owners on the west coast waiting for the current AFL to close up shop so they can revive it with a new business model.
The Richmond Roughriders of the American Arena League have signed former NFL defensive end, Greg Hardy.
Hardy played college football at the University of Mississippi. In his time there, he had compiled 39.5 career tackles for loss and 26.5 sacks. He received All-American distinction in 2007 and 2008, and earned All-Freshman honors in 2006. In 2007, he had an SEC best for sacks, with 10.
He entered the 2010 draft, where he was selected in the sixth round by the Carolina Panthers. He played with the Panthers from 2010 to 2014, compiling 34 sacks and 206 tackles. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2014, along with having second team All Pro honors by the associated press. He was ranked 53rd in the NFL Top 100 for his 2013 break out performance. In 2015, he played for the Dallas Cowboys. Do to legal troubles and acts deemed inappropriate by the team, as well as dropped performance, he wasn't resigned after the season. With the Cowboys, he recorded one interception, one pass deflection, one forced fumble, six sacks, and 35 tackles. He participated in the Spring League in 2017.
In October of 2016, Hardy announced he was going to start an MMA career. He trained and had no background experience in mixed martial arts. He made his debut on November 4, 2017, where he won. His MMA record became 2-0 on December 1, 2017, with a TKO against Kenneth Woods. Hardy will continue his MMA career while playing arena football for the Roughriders.
How big is this for the Roughriders. It's very arguable and reasonable that they now have the best defensive line in the league, and possibly the best defense. Once again, the Roughriders have shown us that they aren't riding rough. It's time to party Hardy in Richmond, Virginia.
The Atlanta Havoc of the American Arena League (AAL) have signed free agent Safety Joe Powell. Powell played collegiately for one season in 2013 at the Globe Institute of Technology where he recorded 53 tackles, 1.5 of which were sacks, and had one interception.
After college, he signed with the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks for the 2015 season who were then a member of the Professional Indoor Football League (PIFL). During his time with the Steelhawks he recorded 11 interceptions and 52.5 tackles which earned him the PIFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Powell then signed with the Cleveland Gladiators of the Arena Football League (AFL) for the 2016 season. More recently, he attended the Philadelphia Eagles rookie minicamp on a tryout basis. He then signed with the New York Giants on Aug. 17, 2016 before being waived Aug. 30. On Oct. 25, 2016, the Buffalo Bills signed him as a practice squad member. He'd go on to sign a reserve/future contract with the Bills on Jan. 2,, 2017. The Bills waived him on Sept 2, 2017.
Jason Johnson has had a long road as a pro football player. He's played in a lot of places in the arena and indoor level, and he had faced a lot of adversity. But when the Canadian Football League comes calling? Things change.
Johnson played college football at West Virginia Wesleyan, a Division 2 football school that was, at the time, coached by former CFL defensive coordinator Dennis Creehan.
Being a standout at WV Wesleyan, he was signed by the Omaha Beef to play wide receiver in October of 2015. This would be his first professional team. He was released, unfortunately, in 2016, by then head coach Cory Ross, who said that he was released because he was a rookie, and the veterans ahead at the time were guys they just couldn't let go. A veterans game. But, nonetheless, he was told he had the skill to continue playing in the arena level, or even higher. So, he kept moving forward.
Now, the AIF came into play. Johnson side a contract with the Steel City Menace. He had won his spot as a starter for the team, he produced 12 catches for 90 yards and no touchdowns, but that was due to the inconsistency at quarterback for the Menace. The teams would later fold, where Johnson would be called by Ross, the then head coach of the Omaha Beef.
Once Johnson signed, he was placed at defensive back. This was new to him, but he was determined to show out. He played every game in the season but two. The Beef didn't make it to the playoffs, but Johnson re-signed anyway.
Then 2017 came. He got hurt in practice for the Beef, so he was released. Two weeks later, they asked him to come back. But he decided to take his talent to what many call the premier league of arena football: the National Arena League. He signed with the Georgia Firebirds, where he would play front side corner. He played his first game against the Columbus Lions and held his own against the championship contenders, recording a pass break up, a fumble recovery, and three solo tackles. Though they lost, and the rest of the season wouldn't be well for the Firebirds, he became the beacon of the defense, ending with 11 pass breakups, one interception, a fumble recovery, and 15 tackles. Georgia, after the seasons end, discontinued football operations.
Now, Johnson has been taken on to the IFL's newest team, the Bloomington Edge.
Arena Football Talk’s Derrick Deen spoke with Johnson, who is still hopeful he will get a call from a Canadian Football League (CFL) team.
QUESTION: What was it like playing arena football for the first time?
ANSWER: Man, it was funny. I was playing my very first game with the Omaha Beef and my friend/brother Jesse Robertson (JR), a teammate I went to West Virginia Wesleyan College with; I'll tell you, the pace was fast. I was playing wide receiver at the time so I'm used to fast pace but this was warp-speed. On the side line watching, my brother playing linebacker on the first drive on defense, Nebraska Danger in-line up deep in our territory after a great return which was fast.
The center hikes the ball, the quarterback turns around quick, hands the ball off to the left, the running back takes it- jump, cut, spins, and breaks my college teammate’s tackle and score I was in awe, I can’t lie.
Q: Would you consider yourself a great in the Georgia Firebirds short-lived history book?
A: Georgia, oh Georgia. We had are ups and downs. I was nicked up a little bit coming in, but as far them in the NAL, yes I believe I earned the respect of teammates and coaches. I was very consistent down the stretch along with some other guys. For it to have been just one year lived we were in the playoff hunt down the stretch up until the Monterrey game. In Albany, we just could score consistently on offense.
Q: If a CFL team wanted you to, would you go back to wide receiver?
A: That’s a good question. I think I would welcome it. I have a respect for receivers. Having played the position it’s truly an art. If I was asked, I would welcome it.
Q: Does you think your experience as a wide receiver helps you on the defensive side?
A: As far as playing wide receiver in the past helping me, I think yes. It had to. I recognize route combinations pretty quick because of it, for sure.
Q: What is it like coming into a new season, in a new league, and with a new team?
A: I'm excited for the opportunity with the Edge. I just want to earn the respect of my teammates and coaches. I’m ready to compete it’s been a long off-season, it feels like.
Q: What CFL teams have called you?
A: Well, my agent’s have been in contact with a couple of teams and I personally have been in contact with one general manager. Just waiting on my turn. I will be ready when my phone rings.
Q: Who's your all time favorite player, on offense and defense?
A: My All time favorite PrimeTime is the GOAT [Tom Brady]. I’m a fan of Brady. I really do have respect for what he has done.
Q: What's your goal for this season?
A: Goals for myself is to gain experience, learn from the experiences, and improve if I can. Do that daily I will be okay. And win, of course, as well as gain that respect I was talking about.
Q: What would you say is the best thing about yourself as a player? Outside of the field?
A: I’m coachable. I really believe I take coaching well. I welcome it. Outside of the field I’m just a people-person. I work with kids. I’m an elementary school counselor. I believe impacting kids life is the most important duties in life.
Q: And finally, what's the first things you would tell a head coach on the higher level about yourself?
A: I will compete, man! I will compete!
The Massachusetts Pirates of the NAL have signed superstar offensive lineman Cornelius Lewis.
Lewis played college football at Florida State for his freshman season, then transferred to Tennessee State. There, Lewis was a two time All-OVC selection, as well as a First Team AP All-American during his senior season.
Lewis was invited to the 2009 NFL Combine. He went undrafted and he signed to the Indianapolis Colts and attended their training camp. Afterwards, he took on arena and indoor football, playing seven seasons with the Iowa Barnstormers, Jacksonville Sharks, and Tampa Bay Storm. Through his seven years, he's earned All-AFL honors, and All-NAL honors this past season.
There's no doubting that Lewis is a huge addition for the Pirates. He will be the anchor for the ship this season, and this offense should get moving. Whoever the Pirates quarterback will be, just know that they will have tons of fun behind this line.
The Florida Tarpons of the AAL have made a huge addition with wide receiver Joe Hills.
Hills played college football for the South Carolina Gamecocks for two seasons. He then transferred to Tennessee State after the 2008 season, where in 2009, he played in 11 games and started nine, garnering 39 catches for 528 yards and three touchdowns. For his senior season in 2010, he started all 11 games and put together 40 catches for 462 yards and four touchdowns.
Hills went undrafted in the 2011 NFL Draft. He was picked up by the Tennessee Titans, but hurt his ankle during camp, resulting in being cut on September 4, 2011. He then went on to sign with the Spokane Shock of the AFL in 2012, where he recorded 14 catches for 134 yards and one touchdown. But, he finished the 2012 season with the Tampa Bay Storm where he pulled in 39 catches for 648 yards and 13 touchdowns. He returned to the Storm in 2013, where he put up huge numbers with 133 catches for 1,869 yards and 42 touchdowns. This led to him receiving 1st Team All Arena honors. He also attended mini camp for the Carolina Panthers in 2013. In 2014, he put up big time numbers again with 100 receptions, 1,252 yards, and 38 touchdowns. Hills signed to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL on August 12, 2014, but he was released on August 29, 2014. He then signed to the Pittsburgh Power on September 25, 2014, but they later folded in November, the same year. Then, Hills broke out again. He signed with the Jacksonville Sharks on December 30, 2014. In his first season with the Sharks, he put up 150 catches for 1,607 yards and 42 touchdowns. Hills was named 2nd Team All Arena in 2015. He was reassigned to play for the Sharks again in 2016, where he had a magic season, putting together 161 receptions to gain 2,020 receiving yards and 58 touchdowns. He earned Receiver of the Year honors, as well as the 2016 Arena Football League Offensive Player of the Year Award, along with being named Cutters Receiver of the Year. In 2016, Hills was selected second overall in the 2016 Draft of the China Arena Football League, where he was selected by the Dalian Dragon Kings, but he did not play for them. On January 9, 2017, Hills was assigned to the Tampa Bay Storm once again. He caught 129 passes for the Storm, gathering 1,353 receiving yards and 36 touchdowns. Hills also signed with the Jacksonville Sharks of the NAL on June 22, 2017.
This is a huge addition for the Florida Tarpons. Joe Hills will be catching passes from veteran quarterback Chris Wallace. With the anchored offensive line they have, and the talented defense as well, expect this team to be in the playoffs. Don't expect Joe "Superman" Hills to find his Kryptonite just yet, folks.
The Richmond Roughriders of the AAL have announced the hiring of Law Lewis, who will be the defensive coordinator for the 2018 season.
Lewis, from Virginia Tech, played 11 years of arena football, including all three of the previous teams to play football in Richmond (Richmond Speed, Richmond Bandits, Richmond Raiders).
All of his experience around football, and 11 years of arena ball, should bring good veteran leadership and knowledge to the coaching staff and team. This hire could very well be good for the Roughriders.
"I'm a big believer that playing the arena game makes you more knowledgeable as coach, and Lewis brings 11 years of experience to our defensive staff. His leadership and experience will be a true asset to this team,” Roughriders owner Gregg Fornario said.
Lewis shouldn't have a tough time making this defense one of the best in the AAL. With playmakers like Ra'Shawde Myers, Jamie Bender, Davlon Stuckey, Ellis Lankster, Terrance Warren, Mike Wyche, Davon Morgan, Malique Johnson, Keontae Hollis, and Ronald Ollie. This defense looks elite, but the same can be said about the Atlanta Havoc and Triangle Torch. It will be interesting to see how things shake up here.