Sunday, June 14, 2009 | midnight
Beyond the Sun:
Some came to chase the seemingly elusive dream of playing professional football.
Others showed up to resurrect once promising NFL careers.
A few even laced up their cleats for fear of having to permanently hang them up.
But all 55 players that participated in the United Football League scouting workout at Sam Boyd Stadium on Saturday night were after one thing –- a roster spot in an upstart league with a potentially fruitful future.
“Everyone was real competitive today,” said Cecil Sapp, a former Denver Broncos and Houston Texans fullback who is now a UFL hopeful. “You could tell everyone really wanted a spot in this league and it will be a good opportunity. It will be like the baseball minor leagues. Just one step away.”
With former NFL coaches and newly hired UFL head coaches Jim Fassel (Las Vegas), Jim Haslett (San Francisco) and Ted Cottrell (New York) on hand, the hopefuls ran 40-yard dashes, smacked tackling dummies and practiced passing routes for nearly two hours.
Although most of the participants had not touched a football in months, Fassel seemed impressed with the effort displayed.
“This is a total offseason and these guys are out here and you can just see the way they work that this is important to them,” Fassel said. “And that is the starting criteria for me. I don’t want somebody who just says, ‘I’m a good player, I should be out here.’ These players have good attitudes and they want to make it and that’s part of any evaluation you do as a coach. You always evaluate the talent, but you also evaluate how important is it to this guy.”
Fassel and the other UFL coaches have already worked out nearly 200 players at similar combines across the country. The four inaugural UFL teams will hold a draft in 10 days to begin building their rosters.
Fassel said he hopes to sign 30 players initially then wait until the end of NFL training camps in late-August to sign another 30 players.
“The talent level in this league will surprise people – I can guarantee that,” Fassel said.
One position Fassel already has locked up is the starting quarterback. But Fassel would not release this mystery gunslinger’s name except to admit that he has prior NFL experience. (Cue the Michael Vick rumors.)
Fassel did keep a close eye on the slew of talented quarterbacks auditioning for back-up roles Saturday including former Cleveland Browns starter Ken Dorsey, who also won a national championship with the University of Miami.
The two-time Heisman trophy finalist hope to revitalize his career in the UFL, much like Kurt Warner did in the Arena League.
“I just want to be around a group of guys that love playing football and have fun,” Dorsey said. “This league has a lot of credibility. You’ve got four top coaches and some great ownership. It’s a realistic league. It’s not anything that hasn’t been fully thought out. It doesn’t happen very often where you have a great idea backed by great coaches and players that are legitimate. It’s exciting.”
Aside from Dorsey, several other notable college quarterbacks showed off their arms including Utah’s Brian Johnson, Northwestern’s C.J. Bacher, Nebraska’s Joe Ganz and Arkansas’ Casey Dick.
In every group, whether defensive tackles or wide receivers, the list of Saturday’s participants included all Division-I athletes with a large number having logged some NFL experience.
“Sometimes guys can resurrect his career in a league like this,” Fassel said. “All of a sudden, for whatever reason, he hits the back burner and starts playing lights out football. Trust me, the NFL is going to scout the hell out of this league. Big time.”
Steve Silver can be reached at 948-7822 or firstname.lastname@example.org.