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The Philadelphia Soul, one of eight teams in the Arena Football League (AFL), recently held their first open tryout of 2016, which drew more than 300 participants to the Novacare Complex in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. M&F tried out for the team, embedded in a sea of former high school and college football players looking to pursue their dream of turning pro. Several notable football personalities were in attendance at the tryout, including Philadelphia Eagles’ new head coach Doug Pederson, Soul owner and former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski, New Orleans Saints’ wide receiver Marques Colston. and members of the Soul coaching staff and active roster.
“Due to our success last season, this is probably one of the largest turnouts we had at a tryout,” says Phil Bogle (above: second from left), General Manager and assistant head coach of Philadelphia Soul. “We had a very large pool of talent to look at.”
The format of the tryout was as follows: a dynamic warmup, testing for the 40-yard dash and 20-yard pro agility test, followed by individual drills based on position. This M&F Editor ran a 40-yard dash in 5.0 seconds and a pro agility drill in 4.64 seconds, complete with sore legs from a day of football drills. And no, M&F didn’t sign any Soul contracts. However, there are five players on the current Soul roster (30 players) that were found at open tryouts, three of which were signed at the last tryout in November 2015. The Soul finished 15-3 in 2015 and they were the only AFL team not to lose a home game.
“What we want to find is those guys who probably didn’t have the college film, or maybe were injured in college or wherever they played, basically the diamond in the rough guys,” says Bogle. “In the game of football, you can be physically fit but bodybuilders are different because overall we want athletes. You have to be strong and very agile as well.”
There are players who ran 4.4-second 40-yard dashes at the tryout, and Bogle says those players definitely catch the coaches’ eyes. In terms of the bigger guys, Bogle says a few really made a statement.
“I work with the offensive line, defensive line, fullbacks and linebackers and out of that group I found two or three guys that can help us,” Bogle says. One offensive lineman who got a lot of reps in one-on-one drills, an indicator that you’ve caught the coaches’ attention, is Zach Guy, a four-year player out of the University of New Haven.
“Coach Bogle invited me to this tryout through a bowl game that I played down in Florida and I’ve been playing this game for 14 years,” says Guy. “I’ve been to the NFL Regional Combine, and from there, a lot of opportunities have opened up to the point where I’m doing a couple of tryouts with AFL teams and I’ve gotten the chance to be in front of a lot of NFL scouts.”
Guy’s personal trainer, Adam Terry, has six seasons of NFL experience as a right tackle, including a four-year stay with the Baltimore Ravens. They train four days a week, which consists of both lifting and running.
“I picked his brain for some things I could use here and it paid off,” says Guy. “I don’t think I would’ve done as well in the one-on-ones here without him.”
Barbell squats, bench presses and hang cleans are staples of Guy’s training routine, with goals of muscular strength and overall stamina. Wednesdays and weekends are the recovery days. Post-tryout, Guy revealed how he looks to improve his athleticism.
“I plan on eating a little better,” says Guy. “I see the difference with people who put the right things in their body. Being an offensive lineman, that could be one more step to make me that much better.”
Only time will tell if Guy makes it to the AFL but Bogle hinted that the Soul were ready to make moves on some prospective players.
“I work with the offensive line, defensive line, fullbacks and linebackers and out of that group I found two or three guys that can help us,” says Bogle.
Arena football has different rules than outdoor football (the NFL), such as an 8 vs. 8 format played on a 50-yard field, and the sport offers a fun, fast-paced alternative for sports fans.
“The game is fun, it’s affordable, you can bring a family of five and not bring an arm and leg to come to the game,” says Bogle. “There are a lot of in-game performances, the players come out win or lose to sign autographs for our fans. We like to give fans a different experience from an outdoor game.”