Kats’ Mini-Camp by the Numbers
This two-day mini-camp was for the quarterbacks, receivers, and DB’s only, but there were still plenty of players there. Several non-roster players were invited to the mini-camp and given a chance to make to make the squad. The newcomers were QB Tommy Jones and WR/DB’s Tramon Douglas, Ronald “Goldie” McClendon, Eric Joyce, Wakine Bradley, and Jonas Rutledge. Knowing Coach Pat Sperduto’s reputation for finding talent, Kevin Guy, the new head coach of the af2 Rio Grande Valley Dorados, kept a close watch on the practice for players who might become available. After the weekend concluded, Douglas and Joyce were signed to the Kats’ roster.
One No Show
The most asked question of the weekend was: “Where is Adrian McPherson?” The prize of the expansion draft has apparently opted to wait for the NFL draft. My first prediction for 2005 is that McPherson will be placed on the Refused to Report List as soon as training camps open.
There was a lot going on at once, making it a bit difficult to keep track of everybody, but a few players definitely stood out. Gabe Amey (you pronounce it like you’re starting to say “amazing”) caught everything that came close to him. Jermaine Lewis demonstrated that rare combination of size, speed, and good hands. Angel Estrada, who led the NIFL in interceptions last season, made a great impression on the coaches. Cosmo DeMatteo was very effective on both sides of the ball.
Some players got their first taste of playing two-way football. Rober’ Freeman came into camp as a defensive specialist, but looked very proficient as a receiver. Likewise OS Fred Coleman acquitted himself quite well playing defense.
There was one player who stood out for an entirely different reason. The linemen did not participate in this mini-camp, but one showed up anyway. I’ve yet to see Wes Stephens play a single snap or even take part in a drill, but it’s obvious that he’s mastered the “fan friendly” aspect of the AFL. Watching him interact with fans, especially young children, one could easily tell that, as we say down here, “That boy’s mama raised him right.”
One man who is certainly not a new face is Darryl Hammond; in fact I think his rookie card was printed in sepia tone. Watching rookie defenders attempt to cover him on passing drills bordered on cruel and unusual punishment; they definitely got taken to school. His many years between the padded walls have given him an unequalled perspective on the 15th batch of rookies he’s seen.
“A lot of them stand out to me,” he said. “I’d say at least five of them are really really good football players.” And what does “Papa Bear” think of this group overall? “Compared to most other expansion teams that I’ve been on, better than any of them.”
Uno Dos Tres
I was curious about the rationale for having a mini-camp for only skill positions. Offensive coordinator Tres Sullivan explained, “We’ve got so many rookies at the skill positions that we wanted to get a good handle on their abilities before we went into training camp. I don’t think it’s unusual at all, it just gives us a good opportunity to evaluate these guys for a couple of days and for us to talk it over for a couple of weeks before we open training camp.” Sullivan was impressed with his first look at the new team and is looking forward to the next stage. “It’s refining the rough edges and smoothing the rough edges and making them into good productive Arena Football players so I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
You would be hard pressed to find anyone in the Nashville sports scene as well-respected and well-liked as Kats’ defensive coordinator Brenard Wilson. Now his son, Brenard Wilson Jr., is earning a similar reputation after winning the Hume Award, which honors the top scholar athlete in the Nashville Public School System. “He’s exceeded what I ever accomplished,” bragged the proud father, “but his mother is responsible for that a whole lot.”
$149 Road Trip
The Kats will begin their return season on the road. Fans who want make the trip from Nashville to Columbus for that first game can travel in style by contacting Flair Tours. This $149 package includes transportation by deluxe motorcoach, game ticket, hotel room (double occupancy), and breakfast Saturday morning. The bus will pull out of Nashville around 9 AM on January 28. For information Contact Flair Tours at (615) 361-3737, or PO Box 17372, Nashville, TN 37217.
Charliy Nash has covered both incarnations of the Nashville Kats, and now has make the 2 hour drive to Huntsville for an Arena Football fix. He also covers the Tennessee Titans as a blogger for nfl.com and still hopes this will eventually lead to a paying gig.