Monday, February 17, 2014

Coal Burning Stove: AFL gives players chance to prove themselves

Since playing its first game in 1987, the Arena Football League has become a middle ground for those looking to continue their football careers after college. 

This season, you may get to see more of some of your favorite Mountaineers on the field in an AFL game.

Yes, the game may be played with a different set of rules. But who says different is bad?

Current AFL players such as Jarrett Brown, Julian Miller, Kent Richardson and Larry Ford have found homes in hopes to revitalize their careers and to simply continue playing the game. Brown plays with the Spokane Shock, Miller with the Cleveland Gladiators, Richardson with the Jacksonville Sharks and Ford currently sits as a free agent.

Until the late 1980’s, the NFL was the only chance a college player had at continuing their craft in the United States. If that failed, you could always go to Canada and play in the Canadian Football League. But for those who didn't want to leave the country, small-time college players had little hope of life after college ball.

And then the Arena Football league came along.

The AFL gave talented athletes a second chance. A chance at getting noticed. A chance at building a 
resume. A chance to keep playing.

Sure, most AFL players don’t make it to the NFL and become stars. But there’s a chance. Just ask Kurt Warner.

Yes, THAT Kurt Warner. He has many identifiers. You might use these in front of or after his name:

  •            4-time Pro Bowler
  •            2-time Associated Press First-Team All –Pro
  •            3-time NFL MVP (2-time AP NFL MVP)
  •            Super Bowl XXXIV MVP
  •            Super Bowl Champion
  •            Walter Payton Man of the Year
  •            Bart Starr Man of the Year
  •            Iowa Barnstormers Hall of Famer.

Wait. What? Yes, I bet that last one threw you off just a bit.

After being undrafted in 1994, Warner failed to make the Green Bay Packers’ squad over Brett Favre, Mark Brunell and Ty Detmer. Instead, Warner went to the AFL.

Warner spent the 1996 and 1997 season in a Barnstormers uniform, leading them to the Arena Bowl in both seasons. By the end of the ’97 season, Warner was already considered the 12th best player in the history of the AFL after throwing for 10, 465 yards and 43 touchdowns.

Three years later, the AFL introduced a video game named after him entitled “Kurt Warner’s Arena Football Unleashed.” And in 2011, Warner was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame.

With the AFL season set to begin in just under a month, Brown, Miller, Richardson and Ford will look to make their own cases just as Warner did over a decade ago. 

Follow Matt Welch on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV and WVUPros at @WVUPros. 

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