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By Jeff Gagne, Images by J.R. Lawless

In a very special, final edition of the Draft Playbook, I sat down with one prospect from each SFLm team and asked them the same two questions. Below are their replies, and I wish them and their team mates the very best of luck as draft week starts TONIGHT at 7pm ET. (Happy Father’s day to all the dads out there as well!).

Jeff: What was your experience like in the pre-draft process?
If you could name ONE team mate that should be drafted (besides yourself of course) who would it be and why?

Tank Hutt DE Annapolis:
“My experience has been nothing but positive. From being able to speak to team owners about their needs and what and how I can impact the team. I would think Jeff Gagne will be drafted as he is a tackling beast and a great SFL journalist!”

Ross Napoli DE San Jose:
“My experience was terrific in the pre-draft process. I’ve had a lot of great contact with some teams that was very eye opening as to how teams approach filling their rosters. Some are more about the value of the player, others value the individual person and what they will bring to the team other than the player. Some want to know how involved you want to be with progressing your player and some view your activity in chat as a way to gauge who you are. When you go through this like we are it is very intriguing to see how different owners and GMs go about filling their locker rooms. I do believe changes will have to be made to some of the ways the league does things to better accommodate the minors players but we definitely have the right people in place who understand what’s best for this type of league and I think it will make the necessary changes to grow the league to be bigger and better.

If I could only name 1 teammate, without a doubt it would be Ace Fenech. I can’t say it enough; he is a class act. A true leader in the locker room and a guy who cares more about his teammates and the process than wins and losses. I know it’s a video game but we all want to win – that’s why we join. So to see how it’s so natural to put the team in front of that for him is remarkable. Ace is a positive presence in the league that will make his pro team that drafts him not only proud that he is a part of their team but they will look back on this draft and be thankful they didn’t let him slip away. I consider him a friend and wish him nothing but success in this league.”

Bob Funk CB Birmingham:
“I’ve enjoyed the pre-draft process so far. All teams I have talked with have been very accommodating, answering all questions even if they weren’t interested in drafting me personally. If I could only name one teammate it would have to be Benji Mattson. He does so much for all of us in Birmingham. He also has been working on the broadcast crew and is a great all around guy.”

Dameco Ryans LB Madison:
“Dope experience – love the league. Chat rooms are always popping and informative. My fellow LB, Stoneville [should be drafted]…he is a beast.”

Jean Benazzi OL Boise:
“A lot of exchanges with the owners, GM with a few in depth interviews. It was nice to sit down with them and get a glimpse into their projects and how I could fit in, both on and off the field. Fox Highwind really deserves to be drafted. We faced really impressive defensive fronts and as a unit we were not always up to the tasks. He made do with bread crumbs to lead the league in rushing, so his character, his dedication and his skills can’t really be questioned.”

Art Vandelay WR Ottawa:
“Pre-draft is cool, but being in the hunt for the SFLm Championship supersedes pre-draft thoughts. I would say most rookies don’t really understand the process at this stage. We don’t really know what the owners and management staff are thinking. SFL teams have established organizational visions and are very aware of their team needs. This draft has several layers to it and a lot of moving parts. We’re all trying to figure out where we fit in this league moving forward. I also think there’s a lot of quiet hesitation about possibly changing positions and what that means to your potential career. At the end of the day, we should all be honored to make it to any SFL team and excited about our future and a new chapter.

I have many wonderful teammates and our coach kick butt, but Jean Valentine #82 WR is my man! We’ve been on the field together from the start of this season and he is a great team mate. Always positive in the locker room and my favorite hype man. No way a team can go wrong drafting Mean Jean the TD Machine!”

Cliff Allen K Lincoln:
“I really enjoyed my time in the SFLm. Being a part of a great team like Lincoln has allowed me to get to know the league better and get a feel for the overall culture. The veterans have been massively helpful in learning how to navigate the ins and outs of the league. I still don’t have it all figured out but I know I have several people that I can turn to. That really is the essence of the SFL a feeling of unity. I’m rooting for everyone on my team as well as all the other rookies that they find a place to land that is a great fit.

Mike Ahl DE #77. He has been a voice of leadership and guidance in the locker room. He obviously has a passion for the game and is always reaching out to our teammates. Tremendous competitor.”

Eagle Mondavi WR Albuquerque:
“My pre-draft experience stressed me out a little bit. Just watching returning players and players coming out of retirement and taking roster spots got me scared at first. I messaged some teams to try and start the conversation to see what I need to do to make their draft board. Some teams didn’t answer back at first and I fully understand as soon as a team puts a player opening out, they must have gotten 100 dms. The coaching staff at Albuquerque and a few friends helped me through everything. Once the signing freeze happened, I’ve had a few more conversations as teams start to put the finishing touches on their draft boards. Lets just say, I’m ready for this draft to happen

I’m going to have to pick my friend Connor Weston as my teammate. I talk to Connor almost every day just to check in with each other and see how the day is going. He was a huge boost to our locker room, always positive and having the teammates backs. I believe there are only three current running back spots open and I am hoping to hear Connor’s name get called within the first two rounds.”

Good luck to everyone tonight! I look forward to helping the draft content again next season for the newest batch of SFLm players!

That concludes our ‘Draft Playbook’ Series. We hope you have enjoyed it, and we hope to see you reading series 2, next season! Peace!

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