Salt Lake Screaming Eagles prepare to test their fan-run franchise model in debut game
The world is about to find out whether regular fans can take their place alongside the greatest offensive minds in the annals of professional football. The first fan-run professional football team in history, the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles, will kick off the Indoor Football League’s 2017 season against the Nebraska Danger at the Maverik Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday night.
And the fans will be calling the shots.
The Screaming Eagles’ fans voted to select the team’s coach, William McCarthy, and had their say on which players would compose the team’s 25-man roster. On Thursday night, fans in the Maverik Center and around the world who download the Screaming Eagles’ innovative mobile app will call all the team’s offensive plays in real time. It will be up to the fans to decide when the Screaming Eagles will onside kick, go for it on fourth down and try for two points after touchdowns.
“This is an excellent opportunity for fans to become part of the game,” McCarthy said. “You always hear fans, ‘Why did they call that play?’ or, ‘They should have called XYZ.’ This is the fans’ opportunity to either prove that it’s easier than coaches make it sound, or realize there is more to the process then meets the eye. It’s going to be a historic event and one that could reshape the sporting landscape.”
“I’m excited football fans will finally have a chance to prove themselves on the field of play,” said FANchise CEO and Screaming Eagles owner Sohrob Fahrudi. “Fantasy football, Madden, and yelling at the TV or from the stands are as close as fans have ever been. Thursday night that changes. Fans who participate will have a little part of sports history all to themselves.”
The pixelated playmakers in Madden don’t mind when their fates are decided by the push of a button, but what do the real-life athletes who will take the field for the Screaming Eagles think? Quarterback Verlon Reed, who played wide receiver for Ohio State in 2011 before starring at QB for Findlay University, doesn’t seem to mind.
“We’re excited to see this come to life,” Reed said, “and it doesn’t really matter what the fans call because we believe in all our plays and we’ll go out and execute like they were coming right from our coach. We’re very confident in everything we do, and it’ll be exciting once we score on a play they called. The place will erupt!”
Wide receiver Justin Brown, who played at Southern Utah following a two-year Mormon mission, was the fans’ first choice to catch passes for the Screaming Eagles. “I couldn’t be more excited for this opportunity to play for the Screaming Eagles,” Brown said. “Having fans so involved takes things to another level for us as players, and I’m very blessed and humbled to be a part of something so great.”
The Screaming Eagles’ defensive play calls will remain in McCarthy’s hands, but the defenders are just as eager as their offensive teammates to make history on Thursday night.
“I’m very excited to be playing ball again, and we’re all excited to be a part of something this big with this much buzz around it,” said defensive tackle Jerrod Black, whose first NFL run with the Dallas Cowboys was cut short by a knee injury. “There’s excitement in the air and we’re all focused on one goal: Get that first win for SLC.”
Leading defensive back vote-getter Don Unamba, who spent two seasons in the Canadian Football League, has taken up a leadership role in the Salt Lake defensive backfield and thinks he and his squad are ready for the challenge. “After two weeks of training camp and hitting your own colors, it’s going to be exciting to go against someone else while we make history,” Unamba said. “We have some young, hungry, fast guys on this defense who are going to swarm, get hands on balls and get turnovers. We can’t wait to put it together live. The fans are going to have fun with this one.”
The Screaming Eagles didn’t get an easy draw for their historic opener, as they face a veteran Nebraska Danger squad that was one of the IFL’s top teams in 2016. Danger QB Derrick Bernard, who led Nebraska to the playoff semifinals last season, will arrive in Salt Lake City with an impressive cast of weapons including running back Lyle McCombs and speed-burning wideout Dello Davis. The Screaming Eagles’ fan play callers won’t face a cakewalk, either, as the Danger feature an experienced defensive backfield led by former Arkansas Razorbacks safety Jamar Love and a defensive front anchored by 2016 IFL sack leader Xzavie Jackson.
Despite the challenge, the excitement is palpable for team owner Farudi. “I truly believe we’re at a tipping point in the world of professional sports. Once fans get a taste of being able to affect the game, they are going to want more ways to interact with their favorite teams. This historic first game of the Screaming Eagles is just the beginning, and we plan on leading the charge of true fan interaction.”
The game will be streamed live on SI.com on Thursday at 9:00 p.m. ET.
Click here to download the Screaming Eagles app.