Spring officially begins this week and a lot of things are becoming green again—grass on the ground, leaves on the trees, and the floor of EnergySolutions Arena. The green field complements the arena’s green seats and marks the beginning of Utah Blaze‘s 2013 year in the Arena Football League.
To jumpstart the season, The Blaze held a media day and Fan Fest Scrimmage on Friday night.
In its seventh year with the AFL (2006–2008, 2010–present), the Utah Blaze is anything but green. A wealth of experience returns to this year’s squad and staff. Wearing orange and black, the Blaze have risen in the ranks by competing in a tough western division.
Head Coach Ron James returns for a sixth year after leading his team to a solid 12–6 winning season last year. The Blaze offense and defense are also in good hands, including those of Ron McBride, University of Utah coaching legend, who returns to head the offensive line. “You’re looking at probably the best staff in this league,” James says. “I call them my dream team.”
Blaze coaches Matthew Sauk, Ron James and Ron McBride confer while their team warms up for Friday's scrimmage.
It was a dream last season for league MVP and Blaze Quarterback Tommy Grady who set numerous individual records including a record 142 touchdown passes. He’s looking for only one record this season. “We need to break the wins record this year,” he says. “(My records) might get broken someday, but to win a championship lasts forever.”
Blaze Quarterback and 2012 AFL MVP Tommy Grady watches the team warm up for their scrimmage.
Blaze Wide Receiver Aaron Lesue also set a regular season record with 56 touchdown receptions last season. Lesue played his college football career at Dixie State and Utah State. After a wild offseason that included bobsledding, participating in Utah’s version of Dancing with the Stars and setting a world record by catching a football dropped from a height of 350 feet, he agrees only one record is really important. “To finally bring a championship here, that’s the one record,” he says. “Everything else will fall into place if we focus on that.”
Blaze Wide Receiver Aaron Lesue talks with friends at Friday's scrimmage.
Expect to see Grady, Lesue and the rest of the team out and about in the community. New Blaze Owner Kim Brown hopes that the AFL won’t emulate the NFL, where players are kept out of the public eye. “We feel like the most important way to get people out here is that they have to get to know our players,” she says. “Areas where our fans will probably be, they’ll also be out there.”
New Blaze Owner Kim Brown laughs after playing a game of catch on the arena floor.
Forget fall football right now. Spring brings competitive football all year round with a faster and more physical game indoors. Its actually expected that players jump over walls to catch balls. Spring green just turned into a blaze of orange and black.
The Blaze begin their season on the road at Pittsburgh next weekend, but return for three straight home games in a row starting March 29. Click here for tickets and more info.
#18 Wide Receiver Chase Deadder will be one to watch according to Head Coach Ron James.
#6 Wide Receiver Urrutia Mario has had a solid training camp.