Thursday, Aug. 19, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
No one in the country was happier about being at football practice Tuesday morning than Ed Hartwell.
Hartwell, the Las Vegas native and eight-year NFL veteran, flew around the Sam Boyd Stadium field with a smile on his face as the Locomotives ran through drills during their first training-camp practice of the year.
"It feels good," Hartwell said. "I haven't played in front of my city since my state championship in high school. I know a lot of guys here, and a lot of my family members are going to come out to the games, have a good time and see me in action live again."
Hartwell, a linebacker who graduated from Cheyenne High in 1996, was the Locomotives' most-notable acquisition this offseason.
For Hartwell, it's a homecoming in more ways than one. Hartwell's college coach at Western Illinois, Randy Ball, is on the Las Vegas staff. Also, Locomotives coach Jim Fassel was the Baltimore Ravens' offensive coordinator during Hartwell's last season there.
"We knew each other and had a great relationship," Hartwell said. "I had a great year with him the year we were down there together."
All of the connections just made too much sense. Fassel and Ball invited Hartwell to work out for the Locomotives, but Fassel was a little hesitant with his expectation level.
"I didn't know where Ed's attitude was, his health, what he wanted to do or anything like that," Fassel said. "I thought 'Well, it's been a couple years since I saw him in Baltimore. He may not have the heart anymore or he may have some injuries.'"
Fassel was wrong about questioning Hartwell's commitment level. Hartwell said he showed up at the workout and "ran around a little bit."
That was all it took. Fassel immediately wanted to add Hartwell to the roster. He now will serve as the UFL defending champion's starting middle linebacker and defensive leader.
"Here's a guy who has been in the NFL for a lot of years and been as good of a player as anybody, and he's excited," Fassel said. "That's the kind of guys I want."
Hartwell didn't have to return to football. He became a reality-television star along with wife, Lisa Wu-Hartwell, on "The Real Housewives of Atlanta."
Hartwell could have retired, but that's not in his nature.
"I have other things going on, but football is always my love," Hartwell said. "This really was my first choice."
Hartwell hasn't played a full season of football since 2006. The Atlanta Falcons released him before the 2007 season after two injury-stricken years.
He spent time with the Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders the next two preseasons, but ultimately was cut before the season.
But Fassel said he was sure Hartwell had plenty left to give.
"I didn't want my career to end in the NFL, but things happen," Hartwell said. "I'm here and I feel great. This is the 2009 champions and we're going to make it 2010 champions. We're going to go out here, play hard and represent the city."