Some have scoffed at the idea, others have delighted in knowing they'll get one more shot to play football.
On March 28, the expansion Brainerd Lumberjacks of the Semi-pro Football League held tryouts for the summer season. General manager and head coach J.J. Kern was amazed as about 32 men, ranging in age from 22 to 55 tried out.
From the masses, Kern was able to solidify 30 of the 40 roster spots. With 10 spots remaining, the Lumberjacks will hold another tryout 11 a.m. Saturday at Anytime Fitness in Baxter. Interested players are asked to call Kern at (218) 831-1400. At the same time the team is holding an informal practice at Franklin Art Center in Brainerd for those that have made the team.
The Lumberjacks' inaugural game in Brainerd will be 6:30 p.m. May 9 at Franklin Arts Center against Monticello. The cost will be $5 for adults and free for children 16 and younger. The team is also selling season tickets for $12.50. Season ticket holders will also be entered into weekly prize drawings.
A few of the names wearing the Lumberjacks' uniform are familiar to Brainerd football. Mike Foy, 29, played defensive line for the Warriors as did his brothers Chris, 25, and Matt, 20. The three will finally get to play on the same team together.
"It's a good option for guys like us," said Foy. "To be able to strap the pads back on and play a sport you love one more time is exciting."
Foy, who also played at Bemidji State University, now lives and works in Minneapolis, but is willing to make the drive back to Brainerd to practice and play.
He was also surprised by the turnout at last week's tryout and hopes that excitement spills over onto the field.
"It's definitely going to be a wake-up call," said Foy. "I've stayed in shape, but you're never really game shape. But it's like riding a bike. If you've played the game, you know what to expect."
He said he hopes to make the team successful and stick around the area for a long time.
Raheem White is looking to gain more football experience toward his quest of becoming a football coach. White was a scholarship athlete at the University of Maryland. After just one year, the 6-foot-3, 280-pound defensive lineman went into the military and then played a year at Central Lakes College.
"For someone like me who still wants to be active and play football this is great," said White an employee at Krushe Residential Services in Pillager. "I don't want to play college ball anymore, but eventually I'd like to coach. I figure the more experience I get and being with more older guys, it will help me."
Jason Rakauskas played defensive end for the Warriors in 1999. He heard about the team through a friend and now they're both playing.
He's a general contractor in the area and missed out on playing college football as he jumped into the work force. He's excited to have one more chance to play.
"I'm excited for this and really looking forward to the season." said Rakauskas. "This gives me an option to play again."
Rakauskas said there were twice as many people at the tryout than he expected. He said the best part was all the guys wanted to be there. They were excited to play.
"It seems to me we pulled some good talent from all over Minnesota," he said. "It will be interesting once we get out on the field what to expect. We have a lot of big guys. I'll be interested to see how it all comes together."
For those still on the fence, Foy said why not?
"You get a chance to go back to your roots and do what you love," he said. "If you love the sport and want to play, there is nothing stopping you."
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5856.
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