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Crunch Player tries out for Rampage

(Title changed from "Rampage Conduct First Open Tryout for the 2007 Season")

by Randy Snow

Originally posted on ArenaFan.com, Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Grand Rapids Rampage held their first open tryout of the off-season at their practice facility in Kentwood, Michigan on Saturday, August 19. Most of the prospective players came from Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin, but a couple of players made the trip from as far away as Maryland and New York.

One prospective player who didnít have to travel very far was LJ Parker from Grand Rapids. Parker had tried out for the Rampage twice before and was even signed by the team last year, but he was released before the start of the season. He then tried out for the af2 Green Bay Blizzard, was signed by the team and then released once again before the start of the af2 regular season.

Parker then signed on with the Battle Creek Crunch of the new Great Lakes Indoor Football League. Battle Creek is located about 50 miles southeast of Grand Rapids. He had a great season for the Crunch, leading the team with 47 tackles and registering three sacks.

For someone who has played mostly offense in his career, the Crunch gave Parker the opportunity to play mainly on defense. "I started all the (Crunch) games on defense," said Parker. That consisted of 10 regular season games and one playoff game. "Just getting out there and playing helps. The more you play, the more familiar you become with (the Arena/indoor style of play.)"

Parker was also selected to play in the GLIFL All-Star game, which took place on August 5th in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. In that game, he returned an interception for a touchdown, recovered a fumble and had three tackles. He played for the West Team that defeated the East 49-17.

Parker went to Ottawa Hills High School in Grand Rapids and then played college football at Indiana University. He also has tryouts planned with four other Arena teams, the Columbus Destroyers, San Jose SaberCats, Georgia Force and Arizona Rattlers.

Rampage head coach Sparky McEwen has been busy this off-season, scouting players in arenafootball2, the AFLís developmental league. He has been viewing a lot of af2 game films this year rather than traveling as much as he has in the past. However, he and assistant coach Michael Baker did take the time to drive down to Battle Creek a few months ago to see Parker, as well as a couple of other Crunch players, in action.

"LJ has definitely gotten better since the last time he was here," McEwen said. "You can see the difference in his play. Heís got some indoor experience now and we took note of him right away. Heís a young man thatís been working hard to try and land a pro job."

Another player who tried out for the Rampage on Saturday was kicker Justin Rudy from Saginaw, Michigan. Rudy played college football at Division II Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan, which is about 50 miles north of Grand Rapids.

As is the case in the life of any kicker, Rudy and two other kickers had to wait around until everyone else was finished with the regular tryouts before they got their change to impress the coaches. In fact, some of the unnecessary lights in the practice facility were even being turned off as the three began kicking. By then, the place was mostly deserted.

Rudy had previously tried out for another GLIFL team in Michigan, the Port Huron Pirates, who won the GLIFL championship last month with a perfect 12-0 record.

"I did alright, but not as well as I wanted to," Rudy said after he had finished kicking for McEwen and his staff. "It was definitely worth the drive (from Saginaw) and the cost of the tryout."

If he doesnít make the Rampage team, Rudy says he will look to try out for other indoor football leagues. "Iíd like to keep going to more tryouts and see if I canít make it somewhere. Iíd like to continue playing. (Signing with another league) is another chance to play and to get looked at by a bigger league, like the AFL."

The Rampage plan to bring two kickers into training camp next season and are also planning to hold anther open tryout sometime in November. Kicker Peter Martinez, who has been with the Rampage the past two seasons, is a free agent and has not yet re-signed with the team.

2007 will be the 10th season for the Grand Rapids Rampage.

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