The Richmond Revolution, Richmond's new Indoor Football League team, signed three former University of Richmond football players to its 27-player roster for the 2010 season.
Alumni Ryan Mace, Richmond College '05, Stephen Howell, RC '07, and Sherman Logan, RC '08, will make their Revolution debuts at the city's Arthur Ashe Jr. Athletic Center in March, when the IFL's second official season begins. Other local talent, including Rodney Landers, the Dudley Award-winning former quarterback for James Madison University, will join the three former Spiders on the field.
Before signing with the Revolution, Mace, Howell and Logan had all continued their football careers after graduation.
After graduating, Mace played football in Austria for half a year, he said, but eventually stopped and returned to the United States.He now works for John Hancock Financial Network's financial planning branch.
Mace said his IFL pay would be a welcome addition to his income, but that it wouldn't be enough to live off of without his job at John Hancock.
"It's going to be nice to have," he said, "but it's definitely not going to foot the whole bill."
Howell, who was named Spider co-captain during the 2007 season along with Richmond alumnus and Arizona Cardinals running back Tim Hightower, signed with the Detroit Lions upon leaving Richmond. He attended the Lions' training camp and was a member of the team during the first three 2008 pre-season games, at which time he was released, he said.
Of the three former Spiders, Logan has spent the most time involved in arena football, playing in an indoor league in Milwaukee, Wis., before considering the Revolution. Logan also works part time at Best Buy and Finish Line in Richmond.
The IFL also has local talent in its league office. Brooks York, RC '08, another previous football player, is the IFL's director of football operations. York had wanted to work in sports marketing after college, he said, and IFL Commissioner Tommy Benizio, who chose to station the league office in Richmond, had been looking for a local football player to fill the management position.
"I didn't even think that this would ever happen, to be honest," York said. "I was thinking that I'd have to do something where I'd have to intern or sort of work into [a position]. I was just in the right place at the right time."
As director of football operations, York is responsible for signing and releasing players on teams in states spanning from Alaska to Maryland, and managing the league's head coaches and officials, he said.
York had been looking for local players whom fans could get excited about, he said. He presented Mace, Howell and Logan with the prospect of trying out for the Revolution.
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York had been keeping in touch with Mace through a local flag football league and suggested that Mace attend an open tryout for the Revolution on Oct. 11. Of the 56 players who tried out, Mace was one of the seven who signed a contract.
"I had always been dying to get back in the pads," Mace said. "I guess I still had enough left in me and opened a couple of eyes."
Howell was also eager to keep playing and continued training after the Lions released him. He accepted York's offer when York approached him with a chance to further his career, he said. After a taste of arena football in Milwaukee, Logan said he had been happy to come back to Richmond.
Arena football game play takes some getting used to, the players said. Instead of playing on a 100-yard field, IFL teams compete on 50-yard fields that are enclosed by padded walls similar to hockey boards. This enclosed space makes for fast, high-scoring and violent play, York said, because players can actually be tackled into the wall and not just onto the ground.
Logan agreed that the game's speed was the biggest difference between arena football and outdoor football.
"[You] can score a touchdown in like one or two plays," Logan said. "It's not like outdoor football where you have mostly seven-, eight-, 10-play drives going on. This game is back-to-back scores and you're ... constantly running."
Howell has only become familiar with arena play through Revolution practices, he said, but already has a strategy for when he plays in his first game.
"I think the only thing I really have to worry about is that wall," he said. "If I can avoid that wall I think I'll be fine."
Although the Revolution will play its first season in the Arthur Ashe Center, the team's parent company, SportsQuest, is building a 250-acre sports and family entertainment campus in Chesterfield County. The Revolution will use that as home field when the center is completed in 2011. The campus will also act as a training facility for athletes in 20 Olympic amateur sports, according to the SportsQuest Web site.
The IFL, composed of 19 teams during its 2008 inaugural season, has recently added six more teams: two in Wisconsin, one in Chicago, two in Texas and the Revolution in Richmond. The league's season begins in March and lasts through the end of July, York said.
"We want to actually grow the league," Benizio said. "Not just in the number of teams - though that is important - but we want to develop national television deals ... things of that nature."
Logan said he had talked to current Richmond football players about continuing their careers in an arena setting.
"I just let them know, 'If you're up for it, there's always the indoor game,'" he said. "It's different, but it's still football."
Contact staff writer Guv Callahan at email@example.com
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