EVERETT – While officials of the new Everett Hawks football team promise that their product will be “fan-friendly” and full of excitement, they also know their place in the hierarchy of football.
Somewhere below the NFL, the Canadian Football League, the World League, and even the Arena League, there is the National Indoor Football League (NIFL).
Still two months away from opening their first training camp, the Hawks already have a 400-pound opponent: public awareness.
“That’s the biggest challenge,” said Nesby Glasgow, the NIFL team’s president.
During the first press conference in team history, Hawks officials vowed to deliver an immediate winner, but stopped short of promising immediate popularity.
“The key is us starting out fast and furious,” Glasgow said. “There’s no question in my mind that we’ll compete for a championship right away.”
There were a couple of early indications in the Hawks’ first news conference that they will be a different franchise than local minor league teams like the AquaSox and Silvertips. The first came when head coach Jay Atwood announced this Saturday’s open tryout, to which he graciously invited women to compete for a roster spot. A few minutes later, Glasgow said it would be “delusional” for players to expect to use the NIFL as a stepping stone to the next level.
So how to market a team of no-name players, and a league that’s not even as well-known as Arena Football?
That all starts at the top. Owner Sam Adams is a defensive tackle with the Buffalo Bills. Glasgow played 14 seasons in the NFL, including five with the Seahawks. Defensive backs coach Terry Taylor was a cornerback with the Seahawks.
And if those names aren’t enough to get Snohomish County football fans to the Everett Events Center next spring, the Hawks have another plan in mind. Just call it the Silvertips Strategy.
“If you win, they will come,” Glasgow said. “Everybody wants to be associated with a winner. There’s no question in my mind that people from this community that go somewhere, they let people know: ‘I’m from Everett, and our hockey team is a (conference) champion.’”
The Hawks aren’t just hoping for similar success, they’re making promises.
“This team will be a competitive football team,” Atwood said Tuesday, “I will guarantee you.”
Glasgow, Atwood and Adams have had success before, leading a Kirkland-based semi-pro team called the Eastside Hawks to back-to-back North American Football League championship games in 2003 and ‘04. That team, which boasted a star running back named EJ Ashe and former University of Washington linebacker Jeremiah Pharms, gained national exposure that has allowed Hawks personnel to sign players from all over the country.
The team expects to bring 45 players to training camp in January, and 35 have already been signed. The biggest names include Ash, one-time Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman John Romero, ex-Huskies Machal Akbar and Craig Hawley, and former Mariner High School safety Milton Myers.
The league is made up mostly of obscure Division I college players and a few stars from Division I-AA and below. Unlike the Arena League, players aren’t required to play both ways, so there are more opportunities for specialists on both sides of the ball.
The Hawks will hold their second local tryout Saturday at Arena Sports in Seattle. After that, there will be several roster decisions, the release of the team’s schedule and the birth of a new sports team in Snohomish County.
“We’re not coming into this league trying to be a good football team,” Glasgow said. “Our goal is to come into this league and win the championship. We’re not going to talk about, this-is-our-first-year and be-patient and all that. We’re going to set the bar high.”