A Clearer Picture – Episode 13

A one on one interview with Tacoma Grizzlies LB Axel Raven

Clear – Another fascinating weekend of SFL action is now behind us, with the final two now decided for this weekend’s championship game. It’s another Monday night special, and tonight we have our first season 17 rookie – Tacoma Grizzlies prospect Axel Raven! How are you this evening Axel?

Raven – I’m doing pretty well tonight! Weekend rich with SFLm & SFL games… What’s not to like! Thanks for having me, Jacob!

Clear – Great to hear! So I must first start by asking, who is Axel Raven?

Raven – Great question! Very “meta”, but Axel Raven is an OLB for the Tacoma Grizzlies. He loves mixing it up with the O-Line, loves his fellow T-Town defense, and moonlit walks in the beach. I’ve used the name Raven in various forms of gaming, and Axel ended up just sort of popping into my head and sounded “swole” so to speak. The man behind the man: I’m Justin Lee, a MI resident via WI, life long Packers fan, husband and father to 2 great kiddos. Professionally I’ve worked in design (graphic, web, interactive, video) for over 2 decades, and have really enjoyed being able to share that with others here in the SFL community.

Clear – Awesome! I love the name too. What brought Axel to the SFL? How did you find the league and what brought you in?

Raven – My family had recently purchased a Roku TV and it came with loads of free streaming channels, one of which is FTF [For the Fans]. This was early February, I was flipping through the channels and FTF was streaming the Week 3 Mexico City DC game. I watched the game, loved it, and ventured out to the website, then to Discord, subscribed and was assigned to Tacoma! I came in because I liked the idea of being able to create a player and watch him play, progress, etc. What I didn’t expect AT ALL was the community surrounding the league and all the content and chat, etc, etc, etc. To boil it down… I came to play, I stayed for the community.

Clear – Absolutely. You got signed to Tacoma before the SFLm season started, but what made you want to play LB?

Raven – Yep, new players look at the positions available, pick one, and the Deputy Commissioner puts you on a team that is next in line that needs that position. So LB…. I love their versatility! They can pressure the QB (my favorite bit), take the corner away for a run, cover in the flats, or drop into coverage. I love the opportunity to be able to cause havoc across the mid and back field, get all over the field, and make an impact for our team.

Clear – What is the Tacoma locker room like and how has it been working with coaches Jaylin Wells, Shann Varner [Hattori Hanzo], Scott Johnson and Ezekiel Love?

Raven – So I’ve been in the LR for almost 3 months now, at first watching the occasional new player arrive, welcoming them, and getting back to progression. But as our team started to fill up, there was more and more activity, asking and answering questions, and really getting to know your teammates more on a personal level. From the couple weeks before the season kicked off through now, there has been this amazing amount of support and friendship in the locker room. I’ve met some really great players and have had a lot of fun. We’re there for each other. (After that first week, we needed to be!) This support and team-first mentality, paired with the support and guidance of the coaching crew, has allowed us to make exponential progress in turning the corner so early. Jaylin, Ezekiel, Scott, and Hattori have been great on giving us the chance to prove ourselves and show our potential in our games. Scott and Hattori have been kind enough to start showing me the ropes around Scouting and defensive coaching, and I’ve been working on familiarizing myself with the plays in the playbook manager. So overall, an amazing locker room, coaching staff, and playing experience, and I can only imagine it getting better week after week. GO GRIZZLIES!!

Clear – Love to hear it! What was it like to see your player take the field?

Raven – Haha! I was smitten!!! Like an elementary school crush! I’ve watched our games back, grabbed some video snippets, and screenshots to remember some of these moments.

Clear – Early into the season, you rolled out your own rookie interview series. Can you tell us a little bit about Get to Know Us?

Raven – Certainly! The concept of it was Leon Thunderman’s brain child. He was reaching out to rookies in early March, and messaged me to be interviewed. I mentioned to him that I did graphics and said I could help him out, so I threw together a rough mock up of the issue and he loved it. That was the start to a great collaboration and friendship since. It was also a great stepping stone to get my abilities in front of Mike Ahl and Slinn Shady, which has lead to many other opportunities with graphics support, article concepts, and SFL WordPress article design “innovations”. The “Get To Know Us” series set out to highlight the rookie class players, share their personalities, and share it with the community and to get it in front of GMs and Owners. It’s been a little labor of love! Cold messaging players for interviews was also a great way to start to get to know my fellow SFLm players. Lots of positives!

Clear – Awesome! What are your personal thoughts on the SFL as an overall product, and what is your favourite part about being a member?

Raven – That’s an interesting question, actually. Personally, I don’t often think of the SFL as a “product” and I’d like to say that most SFLm players may not see as that either. To me, it’s first a community-based experience,  day in day out. For the player, I’d like to think the community is where the value is at, and what differentiates it from other experiences. I don’t think much about the subscription, and you don’t need one to be part of the community or enjoy the games even as much as the players themselves. As a product though, I felt the entry level was minimal for the value you get, and now seeing the advancements on the progression system, it’s delivering more value for less manual effort, and to me well worth the additional “cost of a dollar menu burger” per month. I’m actually very pleased and impressed with the league investing in itself today to make it better for tomorrow. With less manual work, more resources can be put towards even further advancement… To me, that’s just smart business. As I mentioned, for me the community is my favorite part. Certainly a melting pot of characters from all walks of life, coming together around a shared passion!

Clear – Absolutely! The community is certainly what makes this product as enjoyable as it is. Looking ahead at the draft, what can you offer to teams if they choose to take a chance on Axel Raven?

Raven – Well, I try to be positive and supportive for my team, and I have to say, my team has been there for me in that manner as well. I take progressing seriously and celebrate and cheer on those that progress. I want to be involved in writing, graphics, video for the team that might draft me. Maybe pairing up with someone else on the team on social media or something. I also would love to eventually get to be a DC/Asst DC or perhaps Owner eventually. Mostly, they’ll get a team player willing to help make the team and league better.

Clear – Great to hear! Lastly, what does the future hold for Axel Raven?

Raven – Well… A tough one… I want to say greatness awaits Axel, but if anyone has watched a couple of SFL games, we know nothing is certain in APF! But I believe that it isn’t the moments in the games that will define mine and Axel’s legacy, but the moments off the field. And I’ll be working hard to make those moments count.

Clear – Thank you very much for your time, Axel!

Raven – Absolutely! It’s been a pleasure, Jacob.

Want to be on the next episode of A Clearer Picture? Send Jacob Clear a direct message to join the waiting list.