Tag: football

The College of William & Mary

Alan Williams ’92 and his path to the NFL

Alan Williams ’92 wanted to be a teacher. He planned his entire life out step by step based on that one known fact. After graduation from the College, he started teaching at Norview High School in Norfolk, Va. Then he started helping out with the school’s football team. He planned that eventually he’d become head coach and someday he’d make his way into school administration.

But then the NFL got in his way. 

Williams recently was a part of something that approximately 100 million Americans watched a few weeks back. Williams is the secondary coach with the Indianapolis Colts and his franchise won its first Super Bowl title in decades. 

“It was a great feeling,” said Williams. “I hate to say that it was anti-climactic, but it was. Just to get there, and we had fallen so short the three years before. To beat New England at home to get to the Super Bowl, that was really a big deal. To win the Super Bowl for (head coach Tony Dungy) and as well as just the personal satisfaction to get over that hump after falling short for so many years.”

“And really proving the critics wrong,” he added.

Williams and Dungy had been criticized all season long because of the team’s perceived under-performing defense. Williams’ defensive secondary — which is usually comprised of four to six players who cover the wide receivers and tight ends and defend passes from the quarterback — was a part of the overall problem. But as soon as the playoffs started his squad was a big part of the Colts’ ascension to the championship match-up against the Chicago Bears.

“(Our secondary) was just coming around to getting healthy,” said Williams. “I think the players did a better job of taking ownership of what was going on. They were not happy for sure with how we were playing and I think that they took it upon their shoulders to be more responsible for what was happening on the field. And we as coaches I think did a better job of mixing up what we called.”

Williams thinks that it may all have been great timing for his team — and great teaching. He believes that there is much more to the game of football than most understand, and that it requires a great teacher to get players in position and help them understand its complexities. Perhaps that is why this former teacher has been so fortunate in his young NFL career thus far.

“(Football) is so different in terms of what you do and how you do it,” said Williams. “You’ve got to understand what other people teach you and convey that to your players. If you’re a good teacher, you can coach football.”

And Williams credits many of good habits and abilities to days spent learning at the College. Not just on the field, but in the classroom as well.

“When you’re a William and Mary student, you have to do a lot of things at a high level in competition with a lot of people,” said Williams. “It makes you multi-task. It makes you prioritize your time. It sets you up for whatever you do — to do it at a high level. 

“Coach Laycock demanded that we go to class and that we represented the football team in a good way,” said Williams. “You’re there to play football but you’re also here to be a student athlete. You also had to perform in the classroom at a high level. Not everyone is subjected to that. So when you come out of William and Mary you have a leg up when you enter the workforce. 

“When I taught, I felt better prepared than the people I was teaching with,” said Williams. “And it was the same with football. As a coach, the day isn’t done until you finish with your work. You’re not governed by a time clock. That’s how W&M was. You keep doing it until you get it right until you’re done. Not just finished with it, but the product is a good product. That is a lot like what the real world is and a lot like what coaching is.”

Williams feels that his time on campus was special, and makes a point to stop by for a visit at least once a year. He remembers fondly the nights when he was up late at night at Millington 101 and up on the third floor of Swem Library.

“I also liked walking down DoG Street and getting a smoothie from the ice cream shops,” laughed Williams. For now, Williams and his wife Lisa do their walking with their three boys. 

Now that he’s been a part of a Super Bowl-winning team, the future is bright for Williams — though his first focus is helping to guide his Colts back to the playoffs and possibly win it all again. Though Williams has been rumored to be the next defensive coordinator or the Vikings, he’s making sure that all doors of opportunity are left open.

“I want to have my squad perform at a high level on a consistent basis,” said Williams. “I think that what people are looking for is consistency. They want to know can you do that next year and the year after. That’s the testament of a good coach. If you can put a good product on the field and have them perform on a consistent basis. Right now it’s just to be the best secondary coach that I can possibly be. If that turns into possibilities like a coordinator or a head coach – that would be great. I’ll welcome those when they come. As of now, it’s to do what I do and to do it well.”

This was originally written for The College of William & Mary.

The College of William & Mary

Pittsburgh’s New Man of Steel: Mike Tomlin ’95 Takes Over as Head Coach of Steelers

Times and measurement. The RCA Dome in Indianapolis was a hive clicking and buzzing of tape and electronic stopwatches. Young men in identical gray jerseys line up to throw or jump or run or catch one after another. Their movements translate into statistics. All trying to do their very best to impress the coaches and scouts that speckled the sea of 57,000 midnight blue seats during the NFL combine.

In a corner of the stadium sat one who was almost as much of a rookie as those on the turf far below. Between press conferences and meeting with his new staff, Mike Tomlin ’95, took some time to evaluate talent for America’s most popular and prosperous sporting organization. 

A page from the “Man of Steel” story
A page from the “Man of Steel” story

This year will be Tomlin’s first as a head coach in the National Football League. His meteoric rise through the coaching ranks is equivalent to his ability to turn a group of players into a disciplined unit. Tomlin has made that — and his uncanny skill to explain almost anything to nearly anyone — his trademark. Since his days playing wide receiver for Coach Jimmye Laycock from 1991-94, Tomlin made up his mind to be completely unequaled at whatever he was doing. 

“You knew that he would be successful just because of his intelligence and he had a nice way with people and a great personality,” says Laycock. “It made you feel good to be around him. Guys like that tend to be successful, so I knew that Mike would be.”

His career catching the ball for the Tribe was stellar, as he made 101 receptions for 2,046 yards and 20 touchdown grabs. During that time, his mindset and that infectious personality blossomed and helped him grow into a leader and motivator. He was the player in the locker room at Zable Stadium to whom the rest of the team gave their full attention. Tomlin evolved into one of the pre-eminent teachers and motivators of football, and the perfect coach to lead a team. The perfect coach to lead the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

“I can’t put it into words how it feels on a day-to-day basis,” says Tomlin of his tenure as the Steelers’ head coach. “The reception that I have received here in Pittsburgh and around the NFL community has been very supportive. At the same time, I know that I am undefeated and unscored upon right now, so I’m honeymooning a little bit. It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to be a head coach in this league. And I happened to be the head coach of one of the most storied franchises in all of professional sport.”

His winding road to the top started as a coach right after graduation, stepping into a role familiar to him. He was a wide receivers coach at Virginia Military Institute for one season, before moving on to brief stints at both the University of Tennessee-Memphis and the University of Tennessee-Martin. He took some graduate level courses at the University of Memphis and became a student assistant with the football program. 

In 1997, he found his way to Arkansas State University (ASU), where for his first season, he coached his old position. The following year, he switched to defense, and took over the Indians’ secondary. After one more year at ASU, he was hired on to coach defensive backs at the University of Cincinnati. When Tomlin arrived, the Bearcats’ secondary was ranked 111th in the nation for pass defense. Before the end of his first season, Cincinnati’s secondary ranked an incredible 16th.

His quantifiable success with the ASU defense sparked attention from the NFL. Tomlin got the call from then-Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ head coach Tony Dungy to take over his team’s defensive secondary. Tomlin accepted the position and his coaching turned a good secondary into the league’s premier squad, which ultimately culminated in a championship during 2002 with Super Bowl XXXVII.  

He toiled in Tampa, creating a defensive secondary that was ranked near the top of the NFL year after year, until he was hired by the Minnesota Vikings as their defensive coordinator in 2005. The secret was out, and Tomlin was the league’s hottest coaching phenom. 

The time spent in frigid Minnesota was good for Tomlin, as his increased responsibility led to more accolades. He molded his defense into a purple terror, rising from a 21st overall ranking in the NFL in 2005 all the way to 8th in his 2006 season. A remarkable achievement for one season. From there his name became a headline and a scrolling fixture for the news ticker on ESPN News. He was rumored to be taking over any and all head coaching vacancies in the NFL. But when he got the call from the Steelers organization and their owners, the Rooneys, everything changed. 

“The media always speculates and attempts to be the ones to break a story,” says Tomlin. “I’m sure there was some of that. But the communication with the Rooneys that I had the entire two weeks of the process, even up until the last weekend was very clean. I had some questions answered that I had coming into the situation, without even having to ask those questions. I realized that this was a natural fit. And they felt the same way.”

He was announced as the 16th head coach in the 75-year history of the franchise, and the first African-American. Thus began another move. Tomlin and his family packed up and moved from Minnesota to the Pittsburgh area. The ninth move in just over 10 years. But, as Tomlin points out, they were all moves in the right direction. 

“From a family standpoint, it’s another off season in transition,” says Tomlin who has three young children with his wife, Kiya ’96. “That’s somewhat difficult. But my wife is tough as nails and we’re dealing with it.”

Mike and Kiya are used to dealing with tough situations relating to athletics. The very first time they met in the training room at William and Mary Hall, it was under similar circumstances. 

“Kiya was a gymnast and she was always hurt,” says Tomlin. “She was always in there getting something done. I had a shoulder injury or something at the time, and I guess it was October of her freshman year.”

Now that he’s in charge of the Steelers, Tomlin’s primary task for this first season is getting the team focused and on the same page. He also has to deal with players and coaches in transition and the NFL’s salary cap — something that makes personnel decisions even more difficult. Tomlin takes over a team that is just one year removed from a Super Bowl title, an envious position for any rookie head coach. Just don’t ask him about the playoffs quite yet.

“I think I have learned not to set goals in terms of wins and losses,” says Tomlin. “The reality is that we need to put a championship-caliber team on the field. We’re going to take the challenges one week at a time. It’s important that we establish our personality, being a tough, blue-collar football team.

“But the challenges that this game presents and the challenges that life presents are motivators for me,” says Tomlin. “I try to keep things simple from the standpoint of motivating people for things that they can hold onto. The thing that I am always conscious of is I don’t try to present too much. I present a focused platform of whatever I’m talking about and it comes from the heart.”

Some of these talents and techniques that Tomlin employs so well can be directly traced to his days at William and Mary while working under the Laycock system. Tomlin will be the first to tell you that he got a “leg up” on the competition by mastering the intricate offense that his old coach employs, and the simple rules that govern the Tribe’s football team.

“The way that Coach Laycock approaches football is unique from the standpoint that it is very professional,” says Tomlin. “It is very organized, detailed and sophisticated. While I was there, I saw the game the way I envisioned a coach would see the game. And as I have gotten into the profession of coaching, I realized how beneficial that time was to me.”

Coach Laycock says that he is not surprised at all that Tomlin has ascended to the top in the NFL. His memories of the player were of a guy who never quit. He never gave up on a season or a play or even at practice.

“Mike’s a level headed guy,” says Laycock. “He doesn’t have an ego that he has to deal with. He understands the situation in Pittsburgh and he’s around good people. We talked about that a little bit. I told him that he’s got a whole new thing to open up as he becomes a head coach. Nothing teaches you about being a head coach until you are one. And then you’ve got to trust your instincts and the decisions that you’re making.”

Alan Williams ’92 echoes those thoughts. Williams played with Tomlin at William and Mary and later coached alongside Tomlin while they were both at Tampa Bay. Williams, who is the defensive backs coach for the Indianapolis Colts team that won their first Super Bowl last season, understands exactly what sort of pressures Tomlin will be under and is sure that he will thrive in Pittsburgh.

“Mike is and will be a fantastic coach,” says Williams. “The first time that I got to coach with Mike was at Tampa, and he came into a tough situation. He followed Herm Edwards who was well-liked and well-respected and did a good job with the guys. That is an intimidating situation. He handled it well. The guys respected him from the first day that he came through the door — not just because he was the next secondary coach — but because he had information and knowledge for them. He’s a great communicator and he’s going to be a great head coach.”

Tomlin networks with Williams and many other coaches throughout the NFL that have ties to the College. 

“I’ve met a lot of the William and Mary guys [in the NFL],” says Tomlin. “We take a lot of pride in being from that place — and we should. It’s a fraternity within the fraternity of coaching. You love league functions and league events because you get an opportunity to spend time with William and Mary men like Rip Scherer ’74 and Mark Duffner ’75. It’s special. We talk very little shop and just swap stories of our time at William and Mary.”

Tomlin looks back fondly on his days on the field and off the field at the College. From the guys at Paul’s Deli who made his favorite hot turkey sandwich to the all-nighters that he spent upstairs at Phi Beta Kappa Hall with his nose in a sociology book, his experiences at William and Mary are some of his most cherished memories. 

“The reputation of the school from an academic standpoint is international,” says Tomlin. “That’s one of the reasons why I went there. I am as proud of being a part of the William and Mary family as anything that I’ve ever done.”

For the now, he’s focused on putting the most competitive Steelers team on the field for the 2007 football season. And judging from the consensus of all the experts, Tomlin will do just that and the future is as bright as he ever imagined when he was growing up in Newport News. 

“He’ll be great,” says Laycock of his former player. “He knows what he’s doing. He’s going to have a great career and I am proud to say that I am a Mike Tomlin fan.” 

This was originally written for The College of William & Mary.

Racing Milestones magazine

I AM A RACE FAN: Boomer Esiason

Throughout his career starting with the University of Maryland, then on to the Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals, Boomer Esiason was the ultimate competitor.

From quarterbacking his team to winning seasons to his appearance with the Bengals in the Super Bowl in 1989 to his current post with CBS television as a pre-game analyst, Esiason understands and thrives on victory. Perhaps that is one of the reasons he’s a fan of racing and of NASCAR.

Racing Milestones’ Art Director Eric Pesola interviewed Esiason at Watkins Glen.

RACING MILESTONES: How long have you been a fan of NASCAR?

BOOMER ESIASON: Oh, probably about 15 years, since I was the Grand Marshall down in Martinsville. I caught the bug hack then.

But my son Gunner now finds it to be “must-see-TV” on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. It’s great. It’s something that you can share with your kids. And it’s good old-fashioned American fun.

Boomer Esiason
Boomer Esiason

RACING MILESTONES: How many races have you attended?

BOOMER ESIASON: If you count NASCAR and Formula 1 races … it’s probably about 10. I’d much rather watch it on TV to he honest with you.

It’s almost like NASCAR is like a Super Bowl every weekend with the amount of spectators. You know how difficult it is to get around, and to access a lot of these drivers. You have some passionate fans here, and watching from the comfort of your own home is a little bit better.

RACING MILESTONES: Some people say the same thing about the NFL…

BOOMER ESIASON: I tell you what. Football players, they can certainly take their life in their own hands when they get out there on the football field. But at least they’re not traveling at 200 mph. You blow a knee out, you blow a shoulder out or something like that, that’s different.

These drivers take — literally — their lives in their hands every time thy get out on the track. Whether it be for a race or whether it be for practice. So there is a def-inite respect that goes along with that.

RACING MILESTONES: Tell me a little about your organization.

BOOMER ESIASON: We have a foundation for cystic fibrosis and we’ve raised over $40 million in fighting this. You know, it’s a fight like any other and you have a passion for it to make a difference in some people’s lives.You feel good about that.

At this point in my life, I can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s been a labor of love and an inspirational story. But, at times it can be frustrating.

RACING MILESTONES: What do you think about the Bengals this season?

BOOMER ESIASON: I think that they are in the middle of rebuilding. They’ve gone 8-8 the last two years, and [Head Coach] Marvin [Lewis] has done a great job there. And you should see Carson Palmer have a breakout season. He’s been there for three years now and he was in full command of the team last year until he got hurt and missed a few games. They’re my surprise playoff pick.

They’ll be that one new team that is the new entry into the playoffs, and if Marvin can do that, then they’ll probably build him a statue in downtown Cincinnati, because it hasn’t been done since 1990.

RACING MILESTONES: Do you follow the Cardinals and Jets as closely?

BOOMER ESIASON: I live right by the Jets and I am close to where they are. I played there for three years. I am a New Yorker. That’s where I grew up. I don’t really root for teams, especially in my position as a television analyst and game analyst. You try to be objective and not let your true colors shine through. Like today. I am rooting for Matt Kenseth today. Hopefully, he’ll pull it out today. 

RACING MILESTONES: You’re a guest of Roush?

BOOMER ESIASON: Yep, Roush Racing. We’re also here for the DeWalt car and Matt. I’ve done a few things with Matt in past years and this is the first time I’m actually going to be able to watch him up close. I’m looking forward to it.

This was originally written for Racing Milestones magazine.

The Norfolk Nighthawks

Inside the huddle with Aaron Sparrow

He may be the oldest player on the Norfolk Nighthawks 2003 squad. That distinction alone can be attributed to his ease in remaining calm under terrific pressure.

Without a doubt, Aaron Sparrow, a local gridiron star, whose athletic prowess as a Norfolk State Spartan clinched two CIAA Player of the Year Awards in the early 90’s, has skillfully guided this team to 5 wins with just two losses this season. He gave show stopping performances as he threw for six touchdowns in both victories against the Wilkes-Barre/ Scranton (PA) Pioneers.

The Norfolk Nighthawks’ Aaron Sparrow
The Norfolk Nighthawks’ Aaron Sparrow

This was just what the Norfolk Nighthawks owners were expecting from a man who set 18 Norfolk State University records during his three years as a starter. He passed for a an impressive career total of 8,743 yards and finished as the eighth all-time player in the NCAA Division II for career passing. Those are just a few of his many accolades from his college days.

Aaron told this reporter: “Kicker Steven Scaldaferri jokes on me all the time… He even calls me ‘Old Man.’ All the guys like to remind me that I am the oldest on the team.”

Those years of experience have given him a winning edge on the arena football field. Just don’t bug him about it.

“It’s part of the game,” said Sparrow. “I’m really not too caught up in the stats. I am focused on winning a championship. But, It’s a blessing to put up certain numbers.”

Though the Norfolk Nighthawks are happy to have Sparrow as their starting QB, the former af2 Most Valuable Player is also a welcome sight in the Hampton Roads region. This native son of Portsmouth has many fans who are thrilled to see him playing in this area again.

“Being a professional athlete allows you to see how everything has changed, in football, compared to my college playing days,” said Sparrow. “In college, you take the game seriously, but in the pros you are on your own. You have to prepare mentally and physically day in and day out.”

Sparrow has put his college days behind him. His philosophy is like that of many of his other teammates. He takes one game at a time, including the losses.

“The first loss, which was against Richmond (April 26), hit us hard,” he remembers.

“We had that game. We should have won that game. The second game, versus the Cape Fear (NC) Wildcats, (May 3) was a low blow to our morale. But, our attitude we have now is to continue to win the next games and to take each one at a time and to win each one,” said Sparrow.

As they head into the middle of the season, Sparrow knows this is what makes a team. He also has stated that the grind of positioning for the af2 playoffs can also break a team. He is determined, however, to help bring the Arena Cup to Norfolk. And he knows that he has the teammates who will help him do it.

This was written on behalf of the Norfolk Nighthawks, an af2 franchise, which competed at Norfolk Scope from 2000-03.

The Norfolk Nighthawks

Nighthawks lose in final seconds

The Norfolk Nighthawks came up just a few seconds short against the Cape Fear Wildcats. On May 3, [2003] as the team suffered their second loss in as many games. Cape Fear’s OS Matt Burstein, who was nearly unstoppable throughout the entire contest, took a pass from QB Bryan Snyder into the end zone with just :19 to go in the 4th Quarter.

With the score at 56-49 in favor of the Wildcats and just seconds to go, the Nighthawks were unable to muster enough offense to get a win.

The Norfolk crowd of over 4,500 watched their team lose for the second straight week in the remaining seconds — the Nighthawks lost the week before to the Richmond Speed in Richmond.

Aside from the loss, the Nighthawks had an explosion of offen-sive output. The team had been struggling a bit to put points on the board, but all that changed on May 3, 2003, as the team cruised to seven touchdowns throughout the game.

As soon as Cape Fear would score, the Nighthawks would re-spond. This sort of score and response offense dominated the game and made for an exciting contest (typical of af2 games).

For the Nighthawks, QB Aaron Sparrow completed 23-of-34 for a season high 295 yards with one touchdown. Sparrow even rushed for two on the ground. Cape Fear’s defense got to Sparrow mid-way thought the fourth quarter, hobbling the quarterback. Sparrow took to the sideline and was ready when the offense got the ball.

“That’s all part of the game,” said Sparrow. “Their defense stepped up, but our offense stepped up also. Yeah, it is all part of the game. They pulled one out here. But like I said, we’re going to go back out next week so get ready.”

As usual, OS Travis Burns had an excellent outing. Mr. Burns led his team in receiving at 11 receptions for 164 yards. WR/DB Stuart Brown had a fine game as well, pulling down four catches for 56 yards.

But the most noticable producer was WR/LB Ross Dalton. Dalton only caught one pass for 24 yards against the Richmond Speed the week before. Many hailed his 6 catches for 59 yard per-formance as a ‘break-out’ one, that will help guide the rest of this rookie’s af2 career.

“I want to do a lot better than that,” said Dalton. “Me being a rookie and everything… they say this is a break-out game. We just realized that a lot of these guys out here were physically not challenging me, being 6’3 – 200 (pounds).”

“We just try to use all of our advantages as possible,” said Dalton.

This loss brings the overall record with the Wildcats to 0-3. The Nighthawks were handily defeated twice last season and were hop-ing that this revamped 2003 squad could slow down the explosive Wildcat offense.

“The team played hard,” said K Steven Scaldaferri, who made all seven of his extra point attempts, but missed field goal. “We’re not worried about it,” said Scaldaferri. “We’re starting to become a family and we’re moving in the right direction.”

This was written on behalf of the Norfolk Nighthawks, an af2 franchise, which competed at Norfolk Scope from 2000-03.

The Norfolk Nighthawks

Jay Clarke: The Iron Man of the Norfolk Nighthawks

Jay Clarke is an iron man. And that’s not a reference to the “Iron Man” award which is handed out to players throughout the af2 season. The fact that Clarke has been with the same franchise since the team took the field in 2000 proves his toughness and mental strength. He has suited up for four years now and before each game, he relives his proudest moment.

“Just putting on that uniform, that has to be the proudest moment for me,” said Clarke.

Jay Clarke - Norfolk Nighthawks
Jay Clarke – Norfolk Nighthawks

Clarke has performed at the Fullback or Wide Receiver /Linebacker through his four years with the team. Like players of the golden age of football before television coverage, Clarke plays on both sides of the ball; offense and defense. He does admit that he enjoys defense just a bit better. 

“I approach game day like any other day, though,” says Clarke. “I just keep to myself. Getting up in the morning is enough for me to get into the ‘zone’.”

During his time with the Nighthawks, Clarke has seen a variety of changes with the Nighthawks.

“I have been here for four seasons and the team has changed every year I’ve been here. It’s ‘faces in—faces out’ and ‘coaches in—coaches out’,” said Clarke. “It takes a dedicated person (to play or coach in Arena Football).”

Changes in roster and coaching staff are nothing new for Clarke. The Hampton Roads native attended Hampton University and Norcom High School. 

“(At Hampton U.) I worked with Coach Taylor for almost four years, but in high school I had coaches change.”

While in high school, Clarke excelled in all positions on the football field, but he doesn’t want to try his hand at kicking or quarterback in the af2. He says that leaves the throwing and punting up to the others. He says that he prefers to do what he does best. 

What is remarkable about Clarke is that he has made the team year after year even as each year the Nighthawks front office scours the country and beyond for the talent that will help bring an Arena Cup Championship home to Hampton Roads. He is that good. But he welcomes the new members of the team. Anything or anyone who will assist him in his ultimate aim.

“I lay all personal goals aside,” he said. “I want to help this team with an Arena Cup Championship, and the personal goals and numbers will come along the way. You win the championship, all those other things open up for you.”

When he’s not on the field, Clarke runs his own limousine service. His all occasion “Jay Clarke Limousine” is his baby, and he hopes to grow it into a large fleet of vehicles in the near future.

Clarke is excited about the 2003 season. 

“We have a coach (in Rick Frazier) who knows what he’s doing,” said Clarke. “He’s been around for years and he knows the game. I only can learn from him.”

Now that Clarke is facing his fourth season, he faces the fact that he is indeed a role model to the younger players and those that haven’t played in Arena Football before.

“I just have to be myself,” said Clarke. “I try to lead by example. Like my father said, ‘You can tell who the leader is by who follows.’ I work hard and I try to help everybody.”

This was written on behalf of the Norfolk Nighthawks, an af2 franchise, which competed at Norfolk Scope from 2000-03.

The Norfolk Nighthawks

Inside the Huddle with Chris Stahl

The story of how Nighthawks’ OL/DL Chris Stahl made his way from Norfolk’s Maury High School to the Norfolk Nighthawks might be among the more interesting tales of football recruiting.

Stahl wasn’t sitting by a phone on NFL draft day. He wasn’t in me New York hotel waiting to put on so a hat and stand with a commissioner. Stahl played his college football with the I-AA Tribe of William & Mary.

After a brief flirtation with the New York Giants, the sociology major was pounding the streets Parrish. He found one with the Pines Residential Treatment Center in Portsmouth. There he could use his degree and what he had teamed to help teenagers and children who had fallen off that straight and narrow path.

Football would not leave Stahl alone. The statistics of his playing days were hard to suppress. Those 177 solo tackles, the 18.5 sacks and that interception that he accrued while at William & Mary spoke volumes.

Former teammates encouraged Stahl to toy out for various teams in the AFL, CFL and aft. But Stahl wasn’t interested — until the Norfolk Nighthawks called.

“When I heard from them, everything seemed right,” said Stahl. “It all clicked with the Nighthawks.”

Stahl made an appearance at a try-out and the coaches were impressed. They wanted this talent on the team. They understood that he was a bit rusty because of a recent shoulder surgery, but they saw the potential.

“Chris is the kind of player who can help us bring the ArenaCup to Norfolk,” said Nighthawks Head Coach Rick Frazier. “Chris (has a) unique blend of speed and strength.”

Transitioning from college to the af2 has been a challenge for Stahl.

“I played in I-AA ball, so the talent in this league is comparable,”
said Stahl.

“You’ve got some good players. In fact, I am playing with some guys who I faced in college (WR/DB Dominic Banks and FB/LB Chris Moran). But the game is so different from college. There are overall different techniques used in Arena ball.”

Besides honing his defensive skills, Stahl had to also adjust to playing on both sides of the ball. That was something that he didn’t have to deal with at William & Mary.

“I played all defense in college, but in high school, I was an all-district tackle,” remembered Stahl. “But this is a different level. I am still teaming and I still have to go through the fundamentals.”

Stahl is hoping that he is one part of the puzzle that will help the get the Nighthawks to the promised land of the af2 playoffs and perhaps an ArenaCup championship.

“I lived in Norfolk for ten years,” said Stahl. “I went to high school here and college just down the road. To represent and play for the City of Norfolk with the Nighthawks is truly an honor.”

This was written on behalf of the Norfolk Nighthawks, an af2 franchise, which competed at Norfolk Scope from 2000-03.

The Norfolk Nighthawks

Norfolk Nighthawks 2002 season wrap-up

The Norfolk Nighthawks 2002 season began amidst hopes of an ArenaCup Championship and talks of offensive explosion. With a veteran cast of weapons the Nighthawks looked poised to contend with the Richmond Speed for the American-Atlantic Division title.

The Nighthawks were stunned after their encounter with the Cape Fear Wildcats. The expansion team from Fayetteville, NC looked like anything
but a first year franchise as they rolled over Norfolk 69-19.

Norfolk Scope, home to the Norfolk Nighthawks
Norfolk Scope, home to the Norfolk Nighthawks

Following road losses to Mohegan and Richmond, The Nighthawks were returning home facing their second straight 0-4 start. On May 4, the Mohegan Wolves came to Norfolk for their second match-up.

The Nighthawks won a 58-51 overtime thriller. Trying to use their momentum, the Nighthawks traveled to Roanoke, one of only two places they have won on the road during the first two seasons of play. After a poor display of execution, and giving the Steam 17 points off turnovers, Norfolk dropped a 27-23 decision to their in-state rivals.

The Nighthawks signed former Orlando slinger Chris Wallace to start at QB, to turn things their way. Unfortunately for Wallace, his first start in almost two years would be in Fayetteville against the Wildcats. Wallace would lose his first start 57-32, a great improvement from opening night.

Wallace got his first win against his former af2 team, the Carolina Rhinos. Following a second consecutive home win, this one against Greensboro, and a three-point road loss at Charleston, the Nighthawks were facing a three-game home stand with a (3-6) record and preparing to take on the (8-1) Richmond Speed. Richmond had never won a game in the Norfolk Scope, and nothing would be different this season.

The Nighthawks tripped up the Speed, 55-48, behind great defense and stellar play from Wallace (5 total TD) and their offensive line, who didn’t allow a single sack to the top pass rushing defense in af2.

Now riding some momentum, Norfolk would reel off five straight wins and get to (8-6), but had no shot at the playoffs because of Richmond and Cape Fear putting together winning streaks of their own. Heading into their final two games, both on the road, Norfolk was looking to finish (10-6) and tie their best record ever. New Haven and Augusta, however, had other plans.
New Haven took advantage of another turnover-laden contest and escaped with a 55-42 win, while Augusta scored 20 unanswered points in the fourth quarter against the Wallace-less Nighthawks and won 60-45.

Norfolk would finish the season (8-8) and the roller coaster ride finally came to an end.

But, if Norfolk can return the core of players that helped them finish 7-1 at home and win seven out their last ten, they can go through an off-season with some serious hopes of contending for their fist ever ArenaCup in 2003.

This was written on behalf of the Norfolk Nighthawks, an af2 franchise, which competed at Norfolk Scope from 2000-03.

The Norfolk Nighthawks

Rick Frazier: The Man With A Plan

Rick Frazier is truly the man with a plan. He doesn’t mind being called a defensive guru. But he can coach at all positions. He’s the fiery journeyman coach who is here to bring some lift to the Nighthawks and to get the team back into the af2 playoffs after a three year absence.

Rick Frazier - The Norfolk Nighthawks
Rick Frazier – The Norfolk Nighthawks’ head coach

Frazier, a native of Texas, comes to the Nighthawks after serving the Arena Football Toronto Phantoms’ franchise as their assistant head coach and defensive coordinator. Prior to that, Frazier coached (from an assistant coach all the way to the Head Coach position) with the Milwaukee Mustangs. Frazier spent seven years with the Mustangs.

“I felt like the Nighthawks were the best fit for me,” said Frazier. “I really got excited about coming to Norfolk.”

Frazier was courted by several other arenafootball2 teams as well as teams in the AFL. He chose to come to Norfolk and he sites his top goal is to get the Nighthawks back into the playoffs.

“That’s the first step — you’ve got to get into the dance,” said Frazier. “And then you see how well you dance afterwards. That is the challenge and we recruited the talent, I think, accordingly. We kept the best of the team that was here a year ago and we tried to surround them with half of a roster of outside talent. We feel like our players are not just good athletes but they are also good people, with good character and good work ethic.”

While bringing in the best talent, Frazier and his coaching staff (meet them on Page 4) are working to create an unstoppable offense and a stifling defense.

“For the past eight years, my teams always finished in the top four in the league,” said Frazier. “We’ve got those plans here in Norfolk. And we’re really excited about it.”

That’s no guarantee for team success, Frazier will tell you.

“We are excited,” he said. “We are going to make offensive coordinators miserable.”

This was written on behalf of the Norfolk Nighthawks, an af2 franchise, which competed at Norfolk Scope from 2000-03.

The Norfolk Nighthawks

Meet new Nighthawks head coach, Rick Frazier

NORFOLK — On November 23rd at The Ship’s Cabin Restaurant, the Advisory Committee of the Norfolk Nighthawks will be hosting a bar-b-que, which will give everyone a chance to meet the new head coach, Rick Frazier.

The event will take place from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. This event is open and free to all season tickets holders, fans and future fans of the Nighthawks.

Rick Frazier and the rest of the Nighthawks coaching staff will be conducting a try-out camp earlier in the day at Hampton University before coming over to the Ship’s Cabin for the event.

On hand will be staff, dance team members and players to kick off and welcome our new coach for the 2003 season. Frazier will talk and answer questions about Nighthawks football and team goals for next season.

The Nighthawks Advisory Committee co-chaired by Bill Mann and Ronnie Young is composed of community and business leaders in Hampton Roads. For more information please call the Nighthawks office at 626 – 0500. The Ship’s Cabin Restaurant is located at 4110 East Ocean View Ave in Norfolk.

This was written on behalf of the Norfolk Nighthawks, an af2 franchise, which competed at Norfolk Scope from 2000-03.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén