The Home of Arena Football Fans since 1998

A Starry Night in Des Moines

Jay Jacox
Sunday June 28, 1998

The original idea of indoor football sprang from the fertile imagination of Jim Foster, a man from the Heartland -- the breadbasket of Iowa. And it was back to this Heartland of America that his creation, the Arena Football League, returned in 1993.

Foster had resigned his post as league commissioner but remained on as "consultant." He intended to begin his own franchise in the Iowa state capital, Des Moines. It was with that in mind that he enticed the Cleveland Thunderbolts and Arizona Rattlers to play a 1993 exhibition contest at Veteran`s Memorial Auditorium. The game on April 29 resulted in a rare tie, but more importantly, sold out the arena!

Buoyed by the successful turnout, Jim Foster continued with his plan to bring an expansion franchise to Des Moines. The next game at "The Barn" would be a home game for an "Iowa" team, or so it was thought. Mother nature had other ideas.
The summer of 1993 resulted in the worst flooding on record in the Midwest. In July, two rivers in Des Moines broke over their banks and cut off the water supply for over 250,000 capital city residents. By August, some parts of eight other states had been declared disaster areas but EVERY county in Iowa was included in that proclamation.r
Sensing a need to help, the Arena Football League decided to get involved. A fund-raiser was hastily put together to help provide financial relief. Its` name? The First Arena Football All-Star Game. The contest would be held after the ArenaBowl in the heart of the flood-ravaged midwest, Des Moines, with all proceeds going to charities to help flood victims.

League coaches nominated players for consideration but it was their peers, the players, who actually selected the all-star squads. For the American Conference, Arizona was represented by the most player selections, 6, while Detroit followed with 5, Dallas with 3, Cleveland with 3 and Cincinnati with 3. The National Conference was dominated by the Storm and Rage. Tampa Bay led with 7 selections followed closely by Charlotte with 6. Rounding out the squad were three Albany Firebirds, two Miami Hooters and one Orlando Predator. The coaching staffs of the Arizona Rattlers and the newly-crowned champion Tampa Bay Storm agreed to lead their conferences in the event.
By August 28 the flood waters were receding. Thirty-nine AFL all-stars descended on Vet`s Auditorium for the fund raiser. Unfortunately, not as many paying patrons showed up like in April -- only 7,189 filled the stands. Many Iowans were still ravaged by the flood and could not spare the time nor money to attend the festivities.

The game itself was a splash of color, from the white, copper, teal, green, black, red and silver personal headgear adorned by the players and representing the ten AFL clubs to the explosion of scoring that brought the fans repeatedly to their feet. Both squads combined for 104 points scored, well above the league average of 77 points per game.

The 1993 All Star Game Logo
Image courtesy of Dave Carlson

The National Conference lit the scoreboard on fire early, racing to a 31-11 halftime lead. On the night Storm quarterback Jay Gruden and his teammate, wideout Stevie Thomas would connect for four touchdown passes. For good measure, Gruden tossed another one to Rage Ryan Bethea. The most the American Conference could muster in the first two stanzas was three field goals courtesy of Rattler Luis Zendejas, one of them from 51 yards.
Behind the second half passing of Rattler Paul Justin, the American Conference slowly chipped their way back into the game and trailed by only 51-40 deep into the fourth quarter. That`s when National Conference quarterback Mike Hold directed a game-clinching drive that culminated in a three-yard keeper by Hold to ice the contest.

Tempers flared on the final play of the game, however. After the American Conference tried in vain to advance the ball downfield they gave it up to the National Conference. With the National Conference in control of the ball, one second left on the clock and the ball on the Americans nine-yard line the game was out of reach. Instead of running out the clock, Mike Hold instead chose to flip the ball to Albany`s Fred Gayles on the final play for another National Conference touchdown and the final 64-40 margin. At least one American Conference player ripped off his helmet and threw it to the turf in disgust. But cooler heads prevailed and the night was a success.

The National Conference had walked away with the only, as of this date, All-Star Game triumph. But the real victors of the night were the flood victims who benefited from the money raised. Arena football would be played at "The Barn" again but the next time the fans would have a hometown team to cheer for, the Iowa Barnstormers.

American Conference Roster National Conference Roster
Name Pos. Club Name Pos. Club
Richard Ashe ol/dl ArizonaSylvester Bembery ol/dl Albany
Chris Baus ol/dl Arizona Ryan Bethea wr/db Charlotte
Arnold Campbell ol/dl Arizona Mike Black k Charlotte
Richard Carey wr/db Cincinnati Andre Bowden fb/lb Tampa Bay
Michael Clark wr/db Detroit Marlin Brown ol/dl Charlotte
Willie Fears ol/dl Cleveland Keith Browner ol/dl Tampa Bay
Flint Fleming ol/dl Detroit Dennis Dahlke ol/dl Tampa Bay
Todd Hammel qb Dallas Corey Dowden ds Tampa Bay
Chris Harkness wr/db Cleveland Fred Gayles wr/db Albany
Paul Justinqb Arizona Jay Gruden qb Tampa Bay
George LaFrance wr/db Detroit Mike Hold qb Orlando
Sam Moore wr/lb Dallas Junior Jackson fb/lb Charlotte
Gary Mullen wr/db Cincinnati Andre Johnson wr/db Charlotte
Garland Rivers ds Arizona Lee Johnson ol/dl Tampa Bay
Jon Roehlk ol/dl Detroit Darrel Philon wr/db Miami
Broderick Sargent fb/lb Detroit Chris Poston ds Charlotte
Dan Sellers fb/lb Cincinnati Niu Sale wr/lb Miami
Tyrone Thurman wr/db Dallas Mitch Suplee ol/dl Albany
Kent Wells ol/dl Cleveland Stevie Thomas wr/db Tampa Bay
Luis Zendejas k Arizona
Head Coach: Head Coach:
Danny White Arizona Rattlers Lary Kuharich Tampa Bay Storm
Assistant Coach: Assistant Coaches:
Pete Katella Arizona Rattlers Deatrich Wise Tampa Bay Storm
Doug Kay Tampa Bay Storm

Game Summary

First Arena Football League All-Star Game
Saturday, August 28, 1993
Veteran`s Memorial Auditorium, Des Moines, IA

American Conference  3  8  14  15  40
National Conference  17  14  13  20  64

Scoring Summary

National -- Stevie Thomas 30 pass from Jay Gruden (Mike Black kick)
American -- FG Luis Zendejas 51
National -- FG Mike Black 25
National -- Stevie Thomas 14 pass from Jay Gruden (Mike Black kick)
American -- FG Luis Zendejas 32
National -- Andre Bowden 4 run (Mike Black kick)
National -- Ryan Bethea 33 pass from Jay Gruden (Mike Black kick)
American -- SAFETY, Jay Gruden tackled in end zone
American -- FG Luis Zendejas 29
American -- George LaFrance 25 pass from Paul Justin (Luis Zendejas kick)
National -- Stevie Thomas 12 pass from Jay Gruden (Black kick)
American -- Tyrone Thurman 15 pass from Paul Justin (Luis Zendejas kick)
National -- Stevie Thomas 6 pass from Jay Gruden (kick failed)
American -- George LaFrance 3 pass from Paul Justin (Luis Zendejas kick)
National -- Ryan Bethea 3 run (Mike Black kick)
American -- Paul Justin 1 run (Luis Zendejas kick)
National -- Mike Hold 3 run (Mike Black kick)
National -- Fred Gayles 9 pass from Hold (no attempt)

Attendance -- 7,189

Individual Leaders
Rushing--American, Todd Hammel 2-15, Dan Sellers 4-14, Paul Justin 1-1-1 td;
National, Andre Bowden 7-47-1 td, Ryan Bethea 1-3-1 td, Mike Hold 1-3-1 td.

Passing--American, Todd Hammel 10-23-1--118-0 tds, Paul Justin
10-17-1--72-3 tds; National, Jay Gruden 13-22-0--188-5 tds, Mike Hold
1-2-0--9-1 td.

Receiving--American, George LaFrance 8-94-2 tds, Tyrone Thurman 5-52-1 td,
Sam Moore 3-23, Chris Harkness 2-21; National, Stevie Thomas 5-69-4 tds,
Fred Gayles 3-49-1 td, Keith Browner 3-25, Ryan Bethea 2-40-1 td, Niu Sale 1-14.

Jay Jacox was a writer for ArenaFan Online from 1998 to 2002.
The opinions expressed in the article above are only those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts, opinions, or official stance of ArenaFan Online or its staff, or the Arena Football League, or any AFL or af2 teams.
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