TERRE HAUTE —
I’m guessing most NFL athletes play for the thrill of competition in front of large crowds more than for money, although some of you may disagree.
Holdouts and contract disputes certainly attract plenty of media attention.
But in the case of the Brazil-based West Central Wildcats semi-pro team in the Interstate Football League (IFL), there’s no doubt why their athletes play.
Hint: It’s not because they’re getting rich beyond their wildest dreams.
“Nobody’s compensated at all,” said 37-year-old Mike Rindone, the Wildcats’ third-year head coach and former defensive tackle. “We’re all just here for the love of the game.”
“They’re just a group of guys from around the [Wabash Valley] area who grew up loving football,” explained Jason Trainor, the Wildcats’ first-year defensive coordinator whose real job is with Safelite Auto Glass in Terre Haute. “They still have a passion for the game.
“I love watching these guys because you have 22 guys out there [from two teams] who love the game of football.”
Founded in 2004, the Wildcats competed in the Midwest Football League — winning the MFL championship in 2005 when Rindone was a player and finishing runner-up with Rindone in charge in 2009 — until they switched to the IFL this year. The 12-team IFL is represented in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan.
The Wildcats, who posted records of 1-10 and 9-4 in Rindone’s previous seasons as coach, will put a 2-1 mark on the line today against the Indiana Cutters (based out of Bloomington) at the Clay Youth Field. All home games, which consist of four 15-minute quarters, start at 8 p.m. and admission is $5 per person.
“I think we have a very effective running game and our passing attack is improving weekly,” Rindone assessed. “We have a lot of team speed. Defensively, we have a lot of physical players, which is what you want… On any given Saturday, we are capable of knocking the snot out of anyone.”
The Wildcats’ 38 players range in age from 19 to 34-year-old Jarrod Sampson, a construction worker during the week and a defensive end on Saturdays.
Recent Indiana State University players K.C. Wilson, a cornerback, and Jon Goodrich, a tight end/defensive end, also are members of the team. So are several former athletes from Terre Haute North High School and a few from West Vigo and Northview.
“These guys work for a living,” Trainor noted, “so it’s hard to get everybody together for every practice.”
“This whole thing is a challenge,” admitted Rindone, who works in construction material sales in Indianapolis when he’s not on the sidelines. “When we do have practices, they come to work.”
Rindone acknowledged that he’s had players who didn’t want to attend practices and work hard in games, but they usually didn’t last long on the team.
“They weeded themselves out,” he mentioned. “As long as they give 100 percent on the field week in and week out… Anything short of that, we’re not interested.”
The rest of the Wildcats’ 2010 schedule: Next Saturday — at home against the Midwest Force; Aug. 14 — at home against the Ohio Outlawz; Aug. 21 — at the Madison County Pirates; Aug. 28 — at home against the Kosciusko City Mustangs; Sept. 11 — first round of playoffs at TBA; Sept. 18 — second round of playoffs at TBA; Sept. 25 — IFL championship game at TBA.
Rosters are locked for this season, but anyone interested in trying out for the Wildcats before next season should call Rindone at (317) 281-6604 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Rindone doesn’t mind if potential sponsors contact him as well.
“We do the best we can to try to get donations,” Trainor pointed out.
Check out the team’s Web site at www.westcentralwildcats.org for more information.
David Hughes can be reached by phone after 4 p.m. at 1-800-783-8742, Option 4, or at (812) 231-4224; by e-mail at email@example.com; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.