After traveling across the country, the Arena Football League's Philadelphia Soul, joined by the Utah Blaze are prepared to step onto Los Angeles soil and take a look at what no professional team has attempted since the Avengers folded just before the 2009 season.
"We feel Southern California is a rich football outlet for someone to tap," Soul general manager Tom Goodhines said via phone interview. "This is a great opportunity to get noticed."
When Saturday morning rolls around, the coaching staffs from both the Soul and Blaze will be in attendance, as each team looks to see if it can find a contributor during its quest for an Arena Bowl XXV title.
But it will be the first time any team has traveled more than 3,000 miles to host a tryout, according to Goodhines, who is entering his 10th year in the league and second with Philadelphia.
"I've been around the league, and this is the first time I can recall a team going across the country to conduct a tryout," said Goodhines, who began his AFL tenure in the league offices before joining the Blaze's front office during the 2006-07 seasons.
In Goodhines first year with the Soul, the franchise conducted two tryouts, both the most attended tryouts in the league, as over 600 players came out in hopes they might get one step closer to his dream of playing professional football.
While the Soul made offers to just 7 of those players, 3 made the roster for the 2011 squad that finished the season 6-12: Offensive Lineman Nyere Aumaitre, LB Jerome Hayes and WR Keith Stokes and two others in a Philadelphia-area tryout Oct. 22, RB Alfonso Hoggard and DB Jesse Cooper.
But four years removed from the franchises first Arena Bowl title, expectations are still high in a city known for its passionate sports fans.
"There is no time for growing pains," Goodhines said. "We have a solid core we are building around and we are hoping to be in the title hunt."
Goodhines has already begun constructing a roster around the solid core, bringing in former Dallas Vigilante head coach Clint Dolezel to be the Soul's assistant head coach and offensive coordinator, as two-time AFL Coach of the Year Doug Plank has taken the head coaching reigns from Mike Hohensee after just one season.
Dolozel is entering his second season as a coach after a career that saw the QB throw 931 TDs with 5 teams over a 13-year span, while Plank, known for his defenses, brings the type of character to the Soul Goodhines feels can turn the franchise around and back into a contender.
While keeping that core of players together, Goodhines has added pieces he feels will help the Soul earn a spot in the Aug. 10, 2012 AFL Championship in New Orleans.
Those pieces include former Vigilantes QB Dan Raudabaugh, OL Christian Johnson and FB's Joe Goosby and Derrick Ross, along with two-time All-Ironman selection WR/KR Jeff "Ridiculous" Hughley, DB Michaeux Robinson, DL Bryan Robinson, DB Rayshaun Kizer and DB Jesse Cooper.
Hughley scored 23 touchdowns in Jacksonville, helping the Sharks win Arena Bowl XXIV and provides an instant impact on a team Goodhines already feels has the best 1-2 WR punch in the league: Donovan Morgan and Anthony Jones, while Raudabaugh is the top-5 QB the Soul were so desperately lacking in 2011.
"We didn't have a lot of consistency at the quarterback position [in 2011]. Ryan Vena filled in admirably, but if you aren't a top-five passer, we aren't a contender," Goodhines said. "We wanted to build around our core. I am excited with our offseason moves and with what we can do in 2012."
In 18 games in 2011, Raudabaugh threw for 90 TDs and 4,741 yards, helping the Vigilantes earn a playoff berth while scoring 1061 points before getting bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the Chicago Rush.
With Dolozel and Raudabaugh already having a prior history, Goodhines feels it will work out to the Soul's advantage bringing in four guys and a coordinator who already are familiar with the system.
But with players not able to report to the Soul's facilities until Feb. 23 and practices not beginning for another two days, Raudabaugh has taken it upon himself to open the lines of communication with his new core of recievers.
"Dan's impressed me so far," Goodhines said. "He has taken the initiative and reached out to establish a relationship. He is ahead of the curve in every department so far."
And the Soul, who use the Eagles training facilities for training camp, know they are constantly under their NFL big brother's watch.
"We are right under the Eagles nose," Goodhines said. "It is a huge advantage to play for us."
Interested parties can register before Wednesday on the Soul's Website, PhiladelphiaSoul.com. Tryout costs are $60 if pre-registering and $80 the morning of. Registration will begin at 8 A.M., with stretching beginning at 9 A.M. followed by 40-yard dash times, broad jump and short shuttle, with other position-specific drills and 1-on-1 drills to follow.
Carson High School is located at 22328 Main Street Carson, CA 90745.