By Merrick Itera
For my first assignment after joining the SFL Beat-Writing team, I had no idea what to expect. I mean, when you stop and look at the broad range of topics our current beat writers have approached from week to week, it’s nearly an exercise in futility trying to guess which unexplored angle they might be brainstorming an approach to next. That being said, you can imagine my surprise when my number was called to conduct my first interview with none other than the “Man of Action” himself – Max Jackson! Whether on the field or off the field, Max was a force to be reckoned with in the Western Conference this season, which makes him the perfect guy to chop it up with about the season ahead. For those of you who don’t know who Max Jackson is, I offer up a brief refresher.
Although he’s only been in the league for a single season, anyone would be hard pressed to say he hasn’t made the most of it. Going from Defensive Captain to Head Coach in 3 weeks, Max took a jumbled, out-of-sorts crew and restructured them into an immediate Western Conference threat, going 5-4 throughout the rest of the season while handing various playoff teams a previously unexpected loss. He managed multiple personnel changes with a surprising professionalism, assisting SF Sharks owner Ryan Moats with the business-end of the team while fine-tuning the on-the-field product from week to week to account for the challenges each new opponent presented to the squad. He deftly righted a previously listless ship, hanging losses on every team in the Western Conference (with the exception of Vancouver) including; Tallahassee’s dance partner in the big game – the Alaska Storm, the surging Houston Hyenas and the San Antonio Vaqueros (more on that, later). Max’s leadership kept the Sharks in the playoff hunt until the final bell; winning the games he needed to, but failing to get the out-of-conference assist necessary to propel SFS into the post-season. The accolades at season’s end speak for themselves:
On Offense, the Sharks led the league in 3rd Down Conversions while ranking Top 5 in four other offensive measureables, to include: Pass YPG (5th), Conversion Percentage (3rd), and 4th Down Conversions (2nd).
On Defense, the stats don’t look as favorable, but one stat near and dear to my heart stands out: Take Aways (1st)
All this, and that doesn’t even address what Max Jackson did ON the field.
As a rookie strong safety in a loaded defensive team, Max put up consistent All Pro stats this season. He was expectedly disruptive, averaging an INT in 2/3s of the games he played in. He racked up 10 pass deflections, and averaged over 5 tackles a game. More than any other period of the season, Max showed his true impact on the field when it mattered most – late in the season (weeks 7-10) where, in 4 games, he nabbed 6 INTs, deflected 5 passes and made 23 tackles, 4 for a loss. With production like this both on and off the field it should come as no surprise that Max was destined for greater things; namely an SFL Expansion Team. Recently, that ambition came to fruition with the SFL granting the Las Vegas Fury an expansion franchise for S11. As you might expect, Owner Max Jackson has a lot on his plate now, but I was able to catch up with him and ask him a few questions in between staff meetings.
Merrick Itera: Coach! I’ve got a few questions I’d like to get your thoughts on regarding next season, do you have a minute?
Max Jackson: I sure do.
MI: Why Las Vegas? What’s the significance of your team’s home town?
MJ: The question is; why NOT Las Vegas? It’s the entertainment capital of the world, and the center of eSports, as well as the host to the most dynamic team in the SFL!
MI: Were there any other locations you considered before making your final decision?
MJ: Yes, we also considered North Las Vegas, but the funding wasn’t there.
MI: How do you feel about the new Western Conference? Does it concern you that your team has to play the last 2 Season Champions twice a year?
MJ: I think its, uh… it’ll be a great guage for our team. If we can beat these teams in the regular season than we should expect to have that same degree of success in the post season as well.
MI: Do you accept responsibility for the rumor going around that beating the San Antonio Vaqueros so bad at the end of the season led to the franchises’ relocation to Denver?
MJ: I’m not one to give credence to rumors, but I feel like we should have beat them earlier in the season as well. They faced a lot of the same issues that we faced over in San Francisco, and it’s a testament to our team’s resilience that we were able to navigate that particular hardship more effectively than they were. Whatever the reason for the relocation, Jeremy Vega has proven that he can lead as well as coach, and he’ll bring a renewed competitive spirit to both the new franchise he’s piloting as well as to the conference we’re both a part of.
MI: Any updates on the naming rights to the new stadium?
MJ: Sometimes I like to keep things simple, but I’m in talks with multiple entities and I’m excited about the possibilities we have there while the stadium is still under construction.
MI: How difficult did you find the Expansion Application to be? Any tips for prospective new owners in the coming seasons?
MJ: I think it’s been said by league staff and other owners that there’s a lot of good prospects out there, and that everyone deserved a bid this year. As the league expands, I’d expect to continue to get exciting applications each off-season. As for this year, I feel like the league staff asked all the right questions, and in the end the Owners made the correct selections.
MI: How’s your team shaping up? What type of identity/brand do you hope to establish in your 1st season? Any predictions on how well you’ll measure up to the rest of the league?
MJ: I mean, I think we’ll be hot out of the gates. I’ve talked to a lot of 2nd year vets and they’re excited about the opportunities playing in Las Vegas provides. I think we’ll have a strong locker room year-round, and we’ll put a competitive product out on the field. I’m focused on play makers on the field, and community builders off of it.
MI: I see the staff are filing back into the meeting room, I won’t keep you any longer. Thanks for your time, and good luck in the coming season! Good catching up with you, Coach!
MJ: Yeah, my scouts just returned from watching a UNLV QB prospect that I’ve got my eyes on. Hopefully he’s as good as my team thinks he will be.
A note from the editor: Just want to say a massive congratulations to Merrick Itera on becoming a Beat Writer and producing an outstanding opening article. I can’t wait to see what he can produce as Season 11 gathers steam. I hope you enjoyed our look at the SFL’s latest owners. Stay tuned for more off-season coverage!