Soul, Blaze host more than 40 players in L.A. area tryout
With a chance to show what they can offer, more than 40 players arrived at Carson High Saturday to get one step closer to chasing his dream, as coaches from the Arena Football League's Philadelphia Soul and Utah Blaze kept a watchful eye, looking for another piece to add to their respective rosters.
"This was a huge opportunity; a lot of guys are looking for that chance to play professionally," former UNLV quarterback Les Obie said. "It only takes one opportunity to get your foot in the door. I'm glad the Soul did this; it's only going to help guys out."
From the outset, the Soul coaching staff, led by head coach Doug Plank, made it known that the Soul have no obligations to any player on its roster.
"We have zero obligation to keep anyone," Plank said before the tryout began. "If you have the talent you deserve to play; if you can make our team better, you deserve to play. Do something that makes you different."
The tryout began with a mass-stretch, led by NFL veteran and 1995 Carson High graduate J.R. Redmond before the participants lined up to be clocked in his respective 40-yard dash and shuttle times.
"Obviously, speed is a big key in this game. I wanted to show that I can run a good 40 (yard dash) time," said Nathaniel Nasca, who was clocked at 4.47 in the 40 . "I also wanted to show that i have the skills to play at the professional level and that I am out here to compete. I just wanted to show what I can do."
After each of the participants had his times recorded in both of the areas, players were split up into four different groups: quarterbacks, wide receivers, defensive backs and lineman, where each knew this part may be a bit more crucial than what times were recorded.
"We wanted to see how fast they picked things up," assistant head coach and former AFL quarterback Clint Dolozel said. "Some picked it up fast, some not as fast as others. It's not about how athletic you are; there's more to it than that. There's a reason they take tests in the NFL."
Dolozel grouped the quarterbacks and receivers together, while Plank, a defensive-minded coach, along with Redmond, took the defensive backs to another section of the field, with Thompson and Blaze head coach/president Ron James taking the lineman to another section of the field.
While each coach was looking for something different, the entire staff, as well as general manager Tom Goodhines and James knew they were seeing talent a lot of others had passed up on.
"These players are here for a reason; they can play, they just need an opportunity," Plank said. "If you show up and are a capable players, there is no reason why we can't contact you to play."
Many of the players who attended the tryout either played college football or were currently playing with a semi-pro team, as was true for former Northwestern wideout Chad Rusinkovich and an active U.S. Marine, Sgt. William McConnell, who plays for the North County (San Diego) Cobras of the LCFL.
"Usually you have some couch potatoes that come out for the T-shirt and a good time, but these guys were serious," Dolozel said. "I'll take a hungry guy that has heart over a talented guy any day of the week. That's what you're looking for in these tryouts."
Rusinkovich, who waited by his phone all morning to hear when the tryout was, knew he needed to be ready for when any opportunity presented itself.
"My oldest brother is the head coach at Dana Hills High, and I am able use their facilities daily, working on my routes, agility, foot speed and power in the weight room," the San Clemente native said. "I work out every day to make sure I am ready for all these opportunities."
One thing each of the participants learned from the Saturday tryout is just how different football is when played indoors.
"Things have to be more precise, even the route running is a little different from the outdoor game," Nasca said.
While the players each took something invaluable from the tryout, the same can be said for the coaching staff.
"This was an excellent opportunity to see an area that has supplied so many colleges all over the country," Plank said.
For now, neither the Soul or Blaze have arranged another tryout in the area.
But that’s not to say they haven't already begun thinking about their next journey West.
--These are the top 5 40-yard dash times
Raphael Reynolds: 4.46
Nathaniel Nasca: 4.47
Chad Rusinkovich: 4.47
Josh Felton: 4.50
Jarrell Patterson: 4.50