Finally, each took a knee in front of the man who could change their lives.
“First, I would like to begin by saying that all of us who are here — coaches — are here with the idea that we’re going to find a number of players who can fulfill the dream I know you all have,” said Marty Schottenheimer. “And that’s to play professional football.”
The labor standoff between NFL owners and players has ground one pro football league to a halt, but it may provide some momentum for another. Schottenheimer was a head coach for 21 years in the NFL, including one with the Washington Redskins, but he’s in his first year in the United Football League, an operation that boasts only five teams and is set to begin its third season in August.
Schottenheimer was a relatively late hire for the Virginia Destroyers — he accepted the head coaching and general manager jobs in March — and as the team embarks on its first season in the Hampton Roads area, he’s working with a long to-do list. That’s what brought him earlier this month to Baldwin-Wallace College for an open tryout, looking to fill out a roster that he’ll take into training camp next month.
“This is not about one moment,” Schottenheimer told the attentive hopefuls in front of him. “It’s about a combination of what we see in the way you do it — what we see in how you work within the framework of the information that’s being given to you. You got to pay attention.”
While the NFL lockout hasn’t resulted in any giant increase in revenue for the UFL, it might ultimately provide a window of opportunity — for players looking for a place to play, for fans who want to watch pro football and for corporations and businesses looking for a sports partner. While Schottenheimer focuses on building his roster, at the league’s headquarters in Jacksonville, Fla., they’re monitoring the NFL lockout closely.
Are they cheering for a prolonged work outage? “Not openly,” Michael Huyghue, the league’s commissioner said with a slight grin.
“I’m sure there’s some that want to see it benefit our league,” he said. “I don’t think there’s cheerleading, but I don’t think everyone’s standing around rooting for a quick resolution either.”
Schottenheimer has little to say on the NFL’s labor problems. He hasn’t coached in the league since 2006. He was lured out of retirement by the UFL to lead a competitive franchise, and this tryout in Cleveland was an important step in the process.
“What I’m asking you to do very simply is this: Be yourself, bring energy, do the right thing, do it to the best of your ability and don’t get caught up in trying to evaluate yourself,” he told the group. “Leave that to us, the coaches. Is that understood? Very good. Now let’s turn this thing loose.”