A Team That Stays Together…..
The Arizona Rattlers are headed to their third consecutive ArenaBowl on Saturday afternoon as they will be involved in a rematch of last year’s Arena Football championship game against the Philadelphia Soul in ArenaBowl XXVI in Orlando.
There is something to be said about that accomplishment win or lose on Saturday. It is difficult to make it to one championship game alone nonetheless reaching three straight.
It can be said that the Rattlers success can be due in part to the number of players that have been with the organization since the league reformed in 2010.
The Rattlers have a group of players that have played together for multiple years.
Their roster currently has ten players that have been with the organization for more than three years, more than any other team in the Arena Football League. It can be said that it is that consistency of personnel that has allowed the team to be successful year in and year out.
“It is the chemistry that we have,” said Rattlers fullback Odie Armstrong. “We are best friends both on and off the field. Where ever you see one of us at, you will see a whole bunch of us. We are joking around and playing together. It is just like being a group of brothers. We all get along very well.”
“It’s huge, especially in football,” said Rattlers quarterback Nick Davila, “how team togetherness is such an important part of sports. It is important that you have some relationship and history with the guys that you are playing with. It is good to know what pushes their buttons, gets them motivated, and to even know when to back off.”
It is the togetherness that brings success for this team both on and off the field. According to head coach Kevin Guy, the team made over 200 appearances in the Arizona community this past year.
Guy said that “It makes me proud as a head coach knowing that these guys are giving back to the community.”
It is also the togetherness that drives them to stay successful and improve each and every week during the course of the season.
“It’s huge,” Armstrong stated. “We have some guys that have been together for a while. Any new guys that come in, we have to mold them into what it is we are trying to do here and have them buy in to how we do things.”
And while the aging veterans help to bring along any newcomers, it is the responsibility of the coaching staff to ensure that the veterans do not get comfortable in their positions.
“The question was asked after last season,” stated Guy. “How are we going to get back (to winning another championship)? Does complacency set in? One of the decisions that we made as a coaching staff was to bring in additional players to bring competitiveness to the guys that have been here for the past three seasons so that complacency would not set in. They have accepted that challenge, embraced it, and worked hard out on the field every day. I could not be happier with this group of guys.”
“You can’t just be happy with your spot,” Armstrong said. “There is a guy next to you or right behind you that can take your spot at any time and that makes the competition level high and keeps everyone playing at their best. When we have injuries, we have guys that can come in and play at a high level as well.”
Two newcomers to the team this season are center Billy Eisenhardt and last season’s Rookie of the Year Jared Perry. It is the closeness of the team that helped bring them to Arizona this season.
“The track record makes a difference,” Eisenhardt said. “When I got a call from coach Guy, it was too hard not to pass up. This group is full of jokesters. We like to have fun. Right when I came here, we all just clicked right away. We do hang out a lot outside of practice and that helps us to work together more on the field.”
It is this brotherhood that also helps to make them better on the field.
Perry has worked with the two previous Rookies of the Year in fellow wide receivers Rod Windsor and Maurice Purify, and fellow receivers Trandon Harvey and Kerry Reed to help improve his game. The five receivers have been with the Rattlers and coach Guy for a combined twelve years.
“I have learned a lot from these guys,” said Perry. “I have learned how to run my stationary routes better and how to utilize my motion more effectively. It has helped me to get more open and make plays. Having these guys makes us a more effective unit.”
Although the success has been there since the league restructured in 2010, this team knows that it has to continue to work hard in order to meet its goals year in and year out of winning an ArenaBowl championship.
“This has probably been one of the hardest seasons that we have had as a team,” Davila said. “We have been working really hard all season long and this is why we have put in the work is to get to this point and win a championship.”