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(FCS) Athletes Give Heart and Soul in Local Tryout
Logistical obstacles are irrelevant when it comes to getting a shot at playing professional football.
Consider the case of Sedale Threatt Jr., who caught a plane from Orlando, Fla., and stayed overnight to plunk down $60 for a chance to try out in Turtle Creek for perhaps an invitation to the training camp of the Philadelphia Soul of the Arena Football League.
“It’s always been my dream to play on Sundays,” Threatt said after a workout and an extended session featuring quarterbacks, wide receivers and defensive backs. “Ask any guy here and he’ll tell you the same thing.”
Playing on Sunday is football lingo for playing in a pro league. And Threatt had lots of company in his quest. About 150 hopefuls showed up at two workout sessions on the artificial turf of the Wolvarena, the home of the Woodland Hills High School Wolverines.
The way the business works, no contracts were offered on the spot. But coaches holding unforgiving stopwatches had everyone run the 40-yard dash, participate in a shuttle drill and then run rudimentary plays without pads. Two or three of them made a big enough impression to warrant a call back from the Soul, and perhaps another six or seven could receive invitations from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers of the af2, a rung below arena football.
“We’ll do some more research and get some more information. There was some talent here,” said Bret Munsey, the coach and personnel director of the Soul, which won the AFL title this year. “The key in these tryouts is to find that one guy or two who may have played at a small school or had flown under the radar. Every one of these guys has a passion for football. We had tryouts a couple of weeks ago in Philadelphia, one of them flew in from Japan and walked to the arena from the airport to participate.”
The day was divided into two sessions. Quarterbacks, wide receivers and defensive backs showed up at 8 a.m. or so for a 9 a.m. workout. Linemen, linebackers, fullbacks and kickers started their drills at 1 p.m. In a technical sense, they all played on this Sunday – a spectacular autumn day. The timing couldn’t have been better in that the Steelers and the Pitt Panthers had the weekend off.
When the day began, it was chilly enough that the exhaled breaths of the players were visible. The morning dew glistened off the playing surface. And an air horn called the prospects to work.
About 10 or so quarterbacks signed up, including Threatt. He is the son of former professional basketball player Sedale Threatt, who began his career with the Philadelphia 76ers and played for several teams.
Threatt, 23, quarterbacked the Lehigh University team after playing high school football in Massachusetts and attending prep school in Valley Forge, Pa., for a year. In the first game of his senior year, he broke some ribs. But he still showed enough to get some inquiries from some NFL teams, including the Chicago Bears.
“I know I can play,” Threatt said.
He displayed a strong arm, a quick release and enough raw talent in the basic drills that he was asked to stay for an extended session in which quarterbacks threw passes to wide receivers being covered by defensive backs.
“He’s an athlete. He’s intelligent. You can tell he’s a leader,” said Rich Ingold, who helped run the tryout camp.
Ingold played quarterback at Seton-LaSalle High School and then played and coached in the AFL. He currently coaches the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton team, and thinks he may have found some talent for the coming season.
“I’ve been at workouts in Orlando, Philadelphia and Columbus, and I think there was more talent in this group than I’ve seen so far,” Ingold said.
The hopefuls showed up in all manner of football shoes and workout gear. They were given color-coded jerseys for their positions – red for quarterbacks, green for receivers, black for defensive backs, gray for linebackers, etc.
A few wives, children and other family members watched from the stands.
All of the participants signed a waiver of liability before taking the field. Most of them left with little more than a “thank you for coming” but got to keep their T-shirt.
And for one day at least, they could say they played on Sunday.
Arena Football League: Athletes give heart and Soul in local tryout
By Robert Dvorchak, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Photo Credit: Bob Donaldson/Post-Gazette