Sue Ann Rybak
The Mt. Airy Monarchs, the first semi-professional football team in Philadelphia, will compete in an indoor football league consisting of nine teams and a 12-week season running from April through July 2012, thanks to a partnership between the Philadelphia Soul and the Indoor Gridiron League.
As part of the partnership, IGL teams will have the opportunity to play a game at the Wells Fargo Center following a Soul game, receive a VIP Soul season ticket, a chance to tryout for and be coached by members of the Soul team after the 2012 season, and a chance to win a cash prize for the 2012 league championship and the inaugural “Soul Cup.”
“Without semi-pro football, there would be no Arena Football League,” said AFL commissioner Jerry Kurz in a statement. “Nearly 100 percent of the players used in the original test games of Arena Football were taken from minor league teams. This is an opportunity for players that didn’t make the league’s limited roster spaces to hone their skills and continue to play football to get to the next level.”
“This is virtually my dream coming into fruition,” said Coach Mike Greene, who has been coaching in the semi-pro league for the past 14 years and played for the London Monarchs in the world league. “This is an opportunity for players to directly advance to the professional ranks, due to their efforts at the semi-pro level. The possibilities for these guys are endless. I want to push every guy I can to the next level. That is my dream.”
Greene, who was born in England and grew up in New York, graduated from Temple University and fell in love with the neighborhood.
“I chose Mt. Airy simply because I like the close-knit, village-like atmosphere here,” he said. “Mt. Airy has a freshness to it – its business community seems to be on the rise. Grounding an arena football team here just makes sense to me. This is more than just football – it’s about improving the lives of all who touch the Monarchs.”
Amadeus Hall, a linebacker for the Mt. Airy Monarchs who played football for Delaware Valley College, shared his thoughts on the new semi-professional football team.
“I am excited,” said Hall, who is from Camden, N.J., and tried out for the Philadelphia Soul.
“It’s an opportunity to make it to the next level.”
Joseph Stancil Jr. of Bristol Township, who came with his son, Joseph Trevor Stancil, to the practice, said his son had been trying to get into football.
“I told him you’re young and you only live once, so take this opportunity and keep moving forward,” he said. “You won’t have any regrets in life that you didn’t give it your all. Go ahead and step out there, and be your best. He tried out for Soul and they directed him over here. He hopes to eventually play for Soul and then the NFL.”
So, how is the IGL game different from the NFL?
“The biggest difference between the indoor game and the conventional outdoor football game is that there is more scoring,” said Curtis Bellamy, offensive coordinator for the Mt. Airy Monarchs. “There are more opportunities to move the ball up and down the field. The fact that we are playing on a condensed football field allows for more opportunity to get first downs and to score.
“If a team scores right away, it isn’t necessary time to panic. You get the ball right back and get the opportunity to score. We have a good group of guys with a great deal of talent. We want to give them the opportunity to come out and show their wares and give them a body of work to present to the Soul.”
Bellamy, who played football for Temple University in the 90s and later did a brief “stint” with the Atlantic Falcons as a tight end, said he currently is working on getting the players to work together as a cohesive unit.
“It’s [the league] an opportunity for the players to enhance their skills and – more importantly – have fun,” Bellamy said. “Part of Coach Greene’s vision is to show that this area is the best part of the city, both socially and athletically. We want to represent the Mt. Airy area and the Mt. Airy brand.”
Clifton Jones, director of operations at New Covenant Church and Campus, said offering this space to the Mt. Airy Monarchs team is “just another way for New Covenant Church to fulfill its mission to love, reach and serve children, youth and adults.”
Part of its mission, Jones said, is “to help people experience healing and fulfillment in their life’s purpose.”
“New Convenant Church wants to be part of the fabric of the community,” he added. “This partnership with Soul is just another way to touch the community and its surrounding area. We believe that our campus is a gift from God, and we want to share that gift with others.”
Jones said Greene’s passion and genuine love for the game convinced him that New Covenant Church needed to be involved in this project.
Jones said that when Greene described how this was a ministry for him and how it would positively affect these young men’s lives “tears welled up in his eyes,” and he almost faded out as if he wasn’t even in the room.
“He made me an instantaneous believer in what he stood for,” he said.
“I think it is a great initiative,” said Anuj Gupta, executive director of Mt. Airy USA. “It offers a pipeline to the professional football players at the arena level. I think it’s great that they selected Mt. Airy as one of the communities. It reinforces Mt. Airy’s status as one of the greatest neighborhoods in the city.”
For more information about the Mt. Airy Monarchs contact Mike Greene, head coach at firstname.lastname@example.org”mikegg201 email@example.com.