2001 Rampage Inducted into Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame
by Randy Snow
Originally posted on ArenaFan.com, Wednesday, October 29, 2014
The city of Grand Rapids, Michigan had an Arena Football League franchise for 11 season, from 1998-2008. The Grand Rapids Rampage was known as the Green Bay of the AFL because it was the smallest city in the league and had the smallest arena. The team had its greatest season in 2001, winning ArenaBowl XV. On Tuesday night, October 28, 2014, the Rampage was honored with an induction into the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame.
The induction ceremony took place at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids. Others inducted that evening were Carlee Hoffman, who won gold medals in the 2004 and 2008 Paralympic Games in women’s wheelchair basketball; the late Jimmy Jackson, who was a three-time NCAA national champion wrestler at Oklahoma State in 1976, 1977 and 1978; NHL All-Star Mike Knuble; Wyoming Park High School football coach Jack VerDuin, who won 21 conference championships and a state title; and Ron Baum, who won the Warren Reynolds Lifetime Achievement Award for his 35 years of coaching high school hockey. Reynolds was a long-time local television sportscaster who passed away in 2000 from cancer.
Former Rampage head coach Michael Trigg was in attendance as was team quarterback Clint Dolezel, who is currently the head coach of the AFL Philadelphia Soul. Other players in attendance included offensive specialist Michael Baker, kicker Brian Gowins, defensive specialist Tristan Moss and linemen Lucas Yarnell and Tony Bowick, among others. Sparky McEwen, who started out playing quarterback for the team in 1998 and was an assistant coach in 2001, was there as well. McEwen went on to become the head coach of the Rampage from 2005-2007.
Many team front office personnel were also in attendance including team owner Dan Devos who talked about how he became involved with the team. “We had been aware of Arena Football so we went out looking at some games and got to love the game,” Devos said. “The excitement surrounding it, the fast-paced action and the people involved with it. Once we started working with it we thought it would be a great fit for Grand Rapids.”
Several other people who were instrumental in the 2001 team were also on–hand that evening. Team radio play-by-play broadcaster Joe Parsons was there, as was the family of the late Gary Bond, who was the local beat writer for the Rampage for many years. Bond passed away in 2010. Craig Moore, who was the president of the team’s fan club, was there, too. So was Alan Meachum and his daughter Alexandria. Over the years, they both assisted the coaching staff of the Rampage in many capacities.
Christie Cook, the vice-president of the Arena Football League, was there as well. She and Sparky McEwen worked together when both were a part of the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz of arenafootball2.
I became a season ticket holder of the team in 2001 and what a season it was. After being a fan of the Detroit Lions since 1975, the Rampage brought a championship to me and the rest of their rabid fans in just their fourth season of existence. I am still waiting for the Lions to bring home a title.
In 2003, I began covering the Rampage for ArenaFan and continued until the team, and the league, folded after the 2008 season. Since then, I have continued to cover the resurrected AFL, but no team will ever hold such a special place in my heart like the Rampage.
The 2001 championship season began on March 29 with a preseason game against the New Jersey Gladiators. Yes, there was a time when the AFL played two preseason games before starting the regular season.
The regular season began on April 14 with a road game at the Indiana Firebirds. The Rampage won in overtime, 60-59.
Grand Rapids started the season 5-0 before losing to the Tampa Bay Storm 66-41. They went on to finish the regular season with a record of 11-3. In the first round of the playoffs, Grand Rapids hosted the Chicago Rush, winning 53-21, and then hosted the Indiana Firebirds, winning 83-70. Grand Rapids then hosted ArenaBowl XV on August 19 before a national TV audience on ABC. They defeated the Nashville Kats 64-42 in front of 11,217 fans.
When asked to recall his most memorable moment from the 2001 season, Coach Trigg recalled the post-game ceremony after winning the championship. “It was actually getting on the podium (after the ArenaBowl), Trigg said. “Seeing the confetti on the field and the fans in Grand Rapids, that is burned into the back of my mind. It’s my fondest moment in athletics, period.”
For me, the highlight of the evening occurred when the Rampage players, coaches and staff were all on stage together. Dolezel, who had the microphone, turned to former team owner Dan Devos and said, “Mr. Devos, you need to bring a team back to Grand Rapids!”
It was a great night of reunions and shared memories of a team that meant so much to the players, coaches, staff and the entire community.
The Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame dates back to 1972 and with this year’s six new inductees, the Hall now has 143 enshrinees. Plaques honoring all of the Hall’s inductees are on display at the Van Andel Arena, where the Rampage played their home games.
You can check out the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame web site at http://www.grshof.com.
(Photo credit - Alex Meachum)