EVERETT — With a mighty howl from head coach JR Wells, Everett’s newest indoor football team was officially christened.
Everett’s entry into the relaunched Arena Football League will be the Washington Wolfpack, the team announced Thursday night during a press conference at Tony V’s Garage in downtown Everett.
“The Washington Wolfpack, we are live!” Wells bellowed, followed by an extended wolf howl.
The Wolfpack, who will play home games at Angel of the Winds Arena, are one of 16 teams in the newest edition of the AFL, which opens its inaugural season in April. This is the latest attempt to bring indoor football to Everett — past teams included the Everett Hawks (2005-07), Everett Destroyers (2009) and Everett Raptors (2012).
In addition to the team’s name and logo, the first Wolfpack player was introduced, former University of Montana cornerback J.R. Nelson.
The name Wolfpack was chosen via an online public vote, with the other candidates being Night Howlers, Werewolves and Cascades. Washington co-owner Mike Thomas said Wolfpack won out by a single vote over Werewolves.
“I’m very excited that they picked (Wolfpack),” Thomas said. “With us being the Washington Wolfpack it means a lot to me because of how wolves travel in a pack. We’re going to attack it as family, as a unit, as unified.”
The team colors are blue, teal and purple. The logo, designed by the AFL’s creative team, is a straight-on view of a wolf’s head. The team added its own small Pacific Northwest flourish, with evergreen trees denoting the inside of the wolf’s ears.
Following the unveiling of the team’s name, the Wolfpack brought Nelson on stage for a contract signing ceremony, making him the first player in team history. Nelson, who trains youth athletes in Lynden, played at Montana from 2012-16, earning honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference recognition in 2015. The rangy 6-foot-2 cornerback was signed by the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs as a non-drafted free agent in 2017, and he spent the offseason with the team before a foot injury cut short his time with Kansas City. Nelson didn’t play football again until last year, when he joined the Everett Royals, a semipro team founded and operated by Thomas.
“Man, it’s great,” Nelson said about being the franchise’s first player. “I just want to get started. I’m training, working hard, coach JR already is getting me with a good training crew and preparing for the highest level, so we’re going into this full-go. It’s very exciting, I just want the opportunity, and to be at the forefront is a blessing.”
The team also introduced the third member of its ownership group, Kelly Fahey, the owner of PacWest Sales in Mukilteo. The ownership group was originally announced as Thomas and Miguel Morga, along with an unnamed third person.
Past attempts at bringing indoor football to Everett had little success. The Hawks folded amid unpaid bills by owner Sam Adams. The Raptors folded after one season. And the Destroyers never even made it to Game 1. But Thomas believes the reason it will work this time corresponds with the new name: the collaborative nature of a Wolfpack.
“We’re coming into this a little bit different,” Thomas said. “A lot of people keep talking to me about (past attempts), and I wasn’t here then so I don’t know. All I know is what I’m about, and I’m about family, love and community. I heard the last football team wasn’t really about the community. I believe this is the community’s team. A lot of the people on our board are in the community. So we’re doing this different, it’s about one sound.”
Thomas added: “I feel we’re moving right on time,” in terms of the organization’s progress. “We’re right on track for everything that needs to be done. I’ve never been more excited about anything else.”
The next step for the Wolfpack is building a 25-player roster around Nelson. The Wolfpack are holding a combine on Nov. 18 at Everett Soccer Arena to evaluate local talent. The combine has space for 85 players. Those interested in trying out can sign up on the team’s website. A national combine is scheduled for Dallas in January. Thomas hopes to have a team in place by Feb. 1.
Washington’s 10-game regular season schedule is expected to be announced a day earlier than the local combine on Nov. 17. The team will also play two preseason games. Ticket information will be available on the team’s website at a later date.