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By Marcus Dunhill

We are just over a week out from the memorable Season 11 Rookie Draft. As the dust settles, we have an opportunity to look behind the scenes and see how that night went down through the eyes of the people making the big decisions. I got in touch with either an owner or GM who was there in ‘The War Room’ when the picks were made. I asked every GM/Owner to tell me what was going through their mind as the picks came in, and what led them to draft the rookies they chose. Here are the responses I got from the front offices of the Southern Conference.

Atlanta Swarm

Draft Selections:
10th Draft Pick: Marcus Dunhill, QB
28th Draft Pick: Siege Falco, WR

First, we have Atlanta. This was a pretty easy interview to get, as I currently reside on the Atlanta Roster. I spoke to the Atlanta Swarm Owner, Mark Chisholm, to get his draft thoughts and reactions and this is what he had to say.

“What’s going on Mr. Dunhill! Well, coming into the draft my General Manager, Mahmoud Ajlouni and I had targeted quality guys who we felt would be a perfect fit for the Swarm culture. We didn’t target guys based on rankings, we studied the content of all their chat postings and we looked at how other guys respected them in the chats. That’s what we based our decisions on and as the draft began, we felt good about our picks being on the board when our selections would be up. The biggest shock to everyone was Kody Hill dropping down the list. We were excited ’cause we knew Vancouver couldn’t pass on him, so that meant Marcus Dunhill would fall right into our laps. It could not have worked out better. Marcus had been our number one for the last couple of weeks leading up to the draft. If you watch the stream, I announced that, “the pick is in”, before the Vancouver Legion pick was even announced. We were ecstatic to get our franchise quaterback of the future.

In the second round, we actually took some input from our new QB and chose Siege Falco: a quality value pick. He was our second ranked wide receiver on our board. Our number one wide receiver was still on the board at that point, but Dunhill vouched for Falco so we pulled the trigger on him and he was excited for the opportunity to join the Swarm. The draft could not have worked out better. We added leadership and swag to our locker room. All the pieces we added in the draft and afterwards puts us in a position to be successful for the upcoming season.”

Dallas Lobos

Draft Selections:
4th Draft Pick: Junior Senior III, WR
18th Draft Pick (From SXF): Royce Robbins, RB

In our second look into the draft, we turn to Dallas. I was able to catch up with Crash Combs; he is the General Manager & Defensive Co-ordinator for Dallas. He was able to let me know how the pieces fell into place during the draft for Dallas.

“Draft night was stressful for us. We were very sure our first pick, ‘JS3’ was going to be there but you can’t be 100% certain. With our second pick we traded up to #18 and ended up getting our target as well. We were overjoyed. Really can’t beat getting the top two players on your draft board.”

Houston Hyenas

Draft Selections:
17th Draft Pick: Kentez Johnson, QB
34th Draft Pick: BJ Loveless, LB

Houston was one of the teams I had gotten to know well during my pre-draft travels. As they were looking for a quarterback, I got to know both Ryan Michaels – who is the Houston General Manager – as well as Demond Simean, who owns The Hyenas. Since Ryan was on the draft show live, Demond was behind the wheel for Houston. Here is what ‘The Doctor’ had to say about how the night unfolded for his team.

“Throughout the off-season, myself and Ryan Michaels have been in talks with a few guys about joining the team to become our new starting quarterback. We fell in love with two guys: Kentez Johnson and Marcus Dunhill. Both of these guys showed great interest in becoming the new field general for the Hyenas. All week leading into the draft, we were trying to make a few trade moves to move up into the top 10 of the draft. We were denied one trade and others just fell through. Having the number 17th pick in the 1st round, I felt that we were not going to get the guy we wanted. When the Pharaoh’s selected Xander Gold at quarterback, my mouth dropped to the floor. I was shocked and surprised that New Orleans did not select Marcus Dunhill or Kody Hill. As the draft was moving along, I could see that both guys who I had high on my draft board were falling and they were falling fast. I was in talks with Ryan Michaels and I stated to him that I sure hoped one of these guys fell to us, speaking of Kentez and Dunhill.

As the draft was moving along and getting close to the number 17th pick, I informed Ryan that I needed one of these guys to come off the board, because it would have been a very hard decision for me to choose which one to pick. I had just as much faith in the both of them. At this point, we were still surprised that Kody Hill was still available as well. Once Hill was off the board, I told Ryan, ‘Now we have a true 50/50 chance of getting our guy.’ Right after Hill was taken, Dunhill was selected by Atlanta. I did have some element of relief lifted because I didn’t want to have to choose between those two guys. With the 17th pick, we selected Kentez Johnson as our new offensive commander and chief. Heading into the second round we knew that we wanted to draft a linebacker. We’d been in talks with Tyrone Zeus for weeks and knew that he was our guy for the 2nd round. A few picks right before our 34th pick in the second, the London Knights selected Zeus. At this point I had no idea who to target or draft. I reached out to Ryan & asked ‘Ok, who should we go after now?.’ Ryan replied back that we should go after Loveless. I wasn’t sure if we could afford him. Ryan also informed me of Matt Wolfe and Brett Funk. I told Ryan this selection was his decision. I reached out to Funk to see if he was interested in playing at a bronze value and his reply was “I’m not sure I really want a silver value”. After that, I didn’t respond back to him and focused more on B.J. Loveless. Kentez reached out to me and stated that we should draft B.J. – ‘he’s my good friend.’ Without having a conversation and the confirmation from Kentez, along with seeing everyone in the chat speak of the guy, Ryan & I knew we had to make B.J. Loveless our final selection of the SFL draft. That pick is being noted as the steal of the draft.”

New Orleans Pharaohs

Draft Selections:
1st Draft Pick: Xander Gold, QB
21st Draft Pick: Tank Bennett, SS
37th Draft Pick: Matt Wolfe, WR

There was a lot of hype surrounding New Orleans going into the draft. All eyes were on them as they had the #1 pick. Due to the rules of the draft pick selections,they were also awarded a 3rd pick due to team rosters filling up. Aaron Arrington had a big statement to make in the draft as an expansion team. New Orleans did not disappoint. I was able to talk to him about how this memorable night went down.

“Well we didn’t really know who we were taking number one overall ’till the last second….We came to the conclusion that we needed to get our quarterback situation settled first, then everything else would fall in place….It came down to Xander, Thomas and Kody…..We were leaning towards Kody at first, then Thomas, then ultimately chose Xander ’cause we felt like he was the best option to lead our new franchise into Season 11. We feel we landed the steal of the draft with Tank Bennett falling to us at the end of the first. He will be the cornerstone of our defense. There aren’t too many defensive backs out here like him; he was exactly what we were looking for. We were shocked Tank was there for us to snatch him up . Ultimately, I feel we had the best draft of all the teams because we got the best players the draft had to offer.”

Aaron Arrington also provided the reactions of his top two draft picks after they found out they were being drafted.

Xander Gold: “Wow man, I’m grateful and I appreciate this so much. I guarantee you won’t regret this. Thanks again AA”

Tank Bennett: “Thank you man. I appreciate it. Can’t wait for the season.”

Oklahoma City Renegades

Draft Selections:
12th Draft Pick: JW Doyle, RB
30th Draft Pick: Hunter Jones, WR

Oklahoma City picked up a couple of big name players in the draft to help support their team. Their team is undergoing a pretty substantial rebuild this season, looking to rookies to be leaders of their team. Michael Irvine, the Owner of Oklahoma City, was kind enough to give me this statement about the draft.

“Yes, I was the mastermind behind our draft and I’m happy to say that we secured two solid players in our top 2 positions of need: running back and wide receiver. The night of the draft was definitely a learning experience. The player we wanted was the #1 Draft Prospect in the SFL, and despite hopes of him falling, he was taken from within our grasp. After that, it was ‘scramble city’ trying to figure out which prospects were still available and what the best plan of action should be. In the end, we pulled it out. We got two of the top 25 rookies from the Big Board and players who are extremely active. I’m extremely satisfied with how the draft played out for us.”

Tallahassee Pride

Draft Selections:
19th Draft Pick: EJ DeCue, DT
36th Draft Pick: Tanner Hendrix, FS

The Tallahassee Pride had an amazing season that ended in a heartbreaking performance in the Championship Game. The draft gave us an insight into how the Pride would build their team to come back for that trophy in Season 11. I was able to get some time to speak with the Pride’s quarterback and General Manager, Christian Christiansen, about how the draft went for him. Here is what he had to say.

“The draft sure made for an interesting experience, having to get a read on prospect personalities and expected commitment in only a matter of a couple weeks. I’d say that it appeared that most teams had a pretty similar draft board once it was all said and done. Even for the so-called ‘surprising picks’, I think most General Managers had a good read on that happening (or at least that the pick itself would be surprising). I didn’t think any team or players came out of the draft upset with the position they were in.
As for Tallahassee, we were ecstatic when EJ DeCue made it to us at #19 because we’d pinned him as our top target and we’d honed in on him early on in the draft process. We know he has some “fat” shoes to fill given that he’s replacing one of the truly elite players from last season in Mike ‘Fats’ Johnson, but we are confident he can step in and not miss a beat. In the second round, we were able to land one of our other targets that we’d circled for the second round as a potential sleeper pick in Tanner Hendrix. Hendrix and I became more acquainted later on in the draft process and he impressed me with his football IQ and overall knowledge of the game and we were quite happy to make him the third member of our secondary and expect him to play a major role going forwards.”

Tulsa Desperados

Draft Selection:
16th Draft Pick: Gib Leedoo, DE

Tulsa had most of their team signed during the signing period and free agency. They did however, have one roster spot for a lucky rookie who would be the final piece that Tulsa needed to cap off their roster build for Season 11. Here is what Kanye Rockafella, Tulsa’s General Manager, had to say about the evening.

“The War Room was pretty much on the road for me as I was travelling hours before the draft to get to family dinner in Austin, stuck in traffic via Dallas. Dion, on the other-hand, was in practice doing walk-thru’s with his semi-pro team for a championship game he was having the next day. I was surrounded by my girlfriend’s family and having a Stella beer and eating dinner while socializing, while trying to keep up with what iwashappening with the Draft and keeping communication with Dion while he was at practice. See, we had our board locked and loaded and we had our conversations and research done on who we wanted. As we got closer to the time to pick, we were getting excited and then I reached out to Gib. I asked Gib if he was ready. He stated he was and I told him, “We are drafting you!” He was happy and said he was ready. Gib said ” LET’S DO THIS!”. Dion got the card in and then it was done. Once that happened, we made the selection and could not believe that the player that we wanted had dropped to us.”

A note from the Editor-in-Chief: The articles for the Western Conference and Eastern Conferences should drop tomorrow and Wednesday.

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