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Youthful In-Fusion in Fort Wayne
posted on ArenaFan.com, Thursday, March 22, 2007
The expansion Fort Wayne Fusion is one of the
“youngest” teams in arenafootball2, but that’s not the only thing about the team
Fusion majority owner Jeremy Golden is only
31-years-old, but even he is not the youngest executive on the team. At the age
of 29, Fusion General Manager Mike McCaffrey is, quite possibly, the youngest
GM’s in all of sports.
But don’t let his age fool you; McCaffrey has been around the block a time or
two in the league. This is not the first time that he has been involved in
getting an af2 team off the ground and he is certainly no stranger to Fusion
head coach Eddie Brown.
McCaffrey grew up in Albany, New York and attended AFL Albany Firebirds games
while he was in high school. He got to watch WR/DB “Touchdown” Eddie Brown earn
his nickname first hand with his hometown team.
“The nickname was given to him in Albany,” said McCaffrey. “It seemed like every
second the announcer was saying, ‘Touchdown! Eddie Brown! Touchdown! Eddie
Brown!’ That was my first introduction to Arena Football.”
From there, McCaffrey went on to college at Old Dominion in Norfolk, Virginia
where he studied Sports Management. In 2000, the AFL launched its own 15-team
developmental league, arenafootball2. While he was still in college, McCaffrey
took a job as an intern with the new local af2 team, the Norfolk Nighthawks. He
was hired on full-time by the team after he graduated.
Meanwhile, back in Albany, the Firebirds moved to Indianapolis and became the
Indiana Firebirds in 2001. Eddie Brown, who had been with the Firebirds since
1994, remained with the team for a couple more years after the move to Indiana.
The two men’s paths crossed briefly in 2004. McCaffrey took a job with the
Firebirds while Brown was still a member of the team. However, during the 2004
preseason, Brown was cut by the team and his 10-year playing career came to an
The Firebirds folded after the 2004 season. McCaffrey returned home and took a
job with the af2 Albany Conquest, a team that replaced the Firebirds in 2002.
“I was very disappointed with the way (Eddie Brown’s) career ended in Indiana,”
McCaffrey said. “So when I went back to Albany, one of my main duties was to
have his jersey retired in the Pepsi Arena. We did that last year.” In
celebration of the league’s 20th season last year, Brown was selected as The
Greatest Player in Arena Football League History.
The chance to come to Fort Wayne this year and become a general manager, as well
as being reunited with Eddie Brown, was an offer that was just too good for
McCaffrey to pass up. Brown had already been hired by the Fusion as the team’s
head coach. In fact, it was Coach Brown who suggested to af2 president Jerry
Kurz that he hire McCaffrey as the team’s GM.
“I’ve been in af2 since it started,” said McCaffrey. “I’ve done everything else
there is to do in Arena Football front offices, but this is my first time being
‘the guy’. Coming to Fort Wayne was the culmination of the last seven years for
me. I’ve been working since I got out of college to be a general manager in
professional football. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime. Obviously the
combination of Eddie Brown being here and having a strong ownership group was a
key to me coming here. They had a strong staff, but they just needed someone
like me who has been through it before and I’ve been through everything in this
league you can go through, so it was a nice situation.
“A lot of things had to happen for me to end up going to school in Norfolk to
begin with,” recalled McCaffrey, “and to have me graduating school at the same
time as the af2 was starting. For me, in my career, the stars have aligned quite
a bit. I’m not going to sit here and say that everything I have accomplished is
because I have worked very hard to make it happen. There have been some lucky
breaks along the way and I am not ignorant to that fact. But when those
opportunities have come, I have been able to get the job done and prove that I
was worthy of it, so that’s where I can step in and say that I feel good about
Does McCaffrey feel that his age will be a disadvantage to him in his new
position? “If I were 22 or 23 it might be a disadvantage, but I’ve been a
professional now for almost 10 years. I’ve certainly learned a lot from a lot of
different people and I don’t look at age as having any effect on how I can
perform my tasks. If it was just Jeremy and I coming into Fort Wayne as a couple
of young hot shots, no, I don’t think that’s the best formula for success. I
think having guys like (team minority co-owners) Chuck McClory and Jim
Fitzpatrick, who are here locally, and having them to lean on when I’m in town,
is certainly an advantage for me.”
And what about his relationship with his equally young team owner? “In our phone
conversations you could certainly tell that we were both young guys. I think one
of the comments that Jeremy made to me was, ‘I feel like I’m talking into a
mirror.’ We had a lot of the same enthusiasm and love for Arena Football.”
So youth is definitely on the side of the Fusion this season. Whether it will
translate into a winning season or not remains to be seen, but one thing is
certain. If the team plays with the same enthusiasm as their General Manager,
fans in Fort Wayne are in for an exciting inaugural season.
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