By Mickey De Pinto, Images by Jonny Law
A Day in the Life of a Rookie
NFL Hall of Famer and former Chicago Bears linebacker, Mike Singletary, once said “Do you know what my favorite part about the game is? The opportunity to play.” For the rookies involved in the SFL, we can relate to that quote on a vastly intense level. We tune into our Twitch account or open up YouTube to watch the current stars of the league that we so desperately crave to be a part of, knowing that we very well may be on our own path to that glorious destination. We log into our Discord accounts whenever we can, only to communicate with our peers and make the right impression on the owners and coaches of the big league teams. Our lives, in many ways, have become somewhat centered around this league.
I reached out to a few of my rookie brothers who frequent the chat rooms to further research the daily life of a minor league player. What I got, in response, was an unbelievable amount of passion and enthusiasm to help out in whatever way possible. I sent a list of questions and had responses to each one within an hour. Perhaps the most significant question that I threw their way, dealt with what it was like to watch these SFL games. Did it make them more or less eager to get between the white lines? Were they chomping at the bit to strap on the shoulder pads? To say the least, this minor league class is beyond ready to hear their names called by the unmistakable voices of our SFL commentary team. Vernard “ViV” Smith IV, a rookie free safety of the Memphis River Runners, blew me away with his excitement about the league and the opportunities that he saw in his future. Not only does he frequently liven up the chat rooms, he goes out of his way to reach out to veterans about how he can best do his part to be a significant member of the SFL. Kevin “Moose” Seay, a running back out of Ottawa, claims to have only missed one game this season and one day hopes to be a talent scout for an organization. This level of commitment and desire to be great is what drives this rookie class.
Speaking from my own experience in the minor league system, I can tell you without question, that all that I am looking for is a chance to get on the field. Ownership and veteran members have made it clear that with the right work ethic and desire to see this league progress, we can make our own name. When preparation meets opportunity, the sky is the limit. I encourage my peers to put themselves out there, ask the right questions, and to go beyond simply playing the game. From what I have seen, this group of minor league players will respond to that challenge and strive to go down as one of the greatest rookie classes in SFL history.
Along with talking to the new faces, I also spoke briefly with my own head coach, Ross Napoli, a defensive end and blooming star of the Louisiana Revolution and number 5 overall pick of last year’s SFL draft. I wanted to hear what it was like to balance the duties of playing the game while also being in command of a minor league franchise. What I quickly realized, was that when you reach high enough, you get to bring your brothers with you. Coach Napoli has managed his time and efforts smoothly by delegating certain responsibilities to the guys that he has built solid relationships with. There is always joy in not only succeeding, but being able to share the wealth with the ones who helped you get where you are. Though his schedule is demanding and possibly somewhat overwhelming at times, he has no regrets. If something isn’t broken, don’t fix it. What got Coach Napoli where he is was dedication and the determination to go the extra mile, and he doesn’t plan on changing that. Perhaps, we all could learn from that mindset. When you think you have done your part, start thinking of the next big thing that you can do. We all want to see our name on the big board when the draft rolls around, but how far are you willing to go? Speak to the guys who have been there. This league is on an upward trajectory because of the players like Ross Napoli. One day, you can be suscribing, and the next, you can be calling the shots for an entire team.
To summarize, take chances, show your personality, and build as many relationships as possible. Andre Krimm, a beast of a defensive tackle for the SFL’s Mexico City Aztecs, took time to tell me about his transition from the minors to the show. The most valuable piece of insight that he gave me, was to take advantage of this time in the minor league. Don’t look past it. These players you currently share a locker room with won’t be by your side for long. It may seem to be a struggle right now, but going through something tough together builds impenetrable bonds, so get close to your brothers and always be there for one another. This could very well be the closest you will ever be to your teammates.
With that being said, good luck to all of my fellow minor leaguers. Let’s strive to be the best class that the SFL has ever seen. See you guys on the field.