Former Gustavus football player Ryan Hoag has been blogging about life in the new United Football League. After a bye week, Ryan writes about getting back to the business of football.
Entry 12 – Friday, October 30
Game 3 – Time for a win
After two weeks of losing, a week off to regain focus, we are back in Florida and I am happy to say we had a solid week or practice. Once again, mother nature has been less than cooperative, with record highs all week, but our bodies are well rested and we have been able to get through these long days. This has been the first week where I have seen a true commitment from our team. Extra players only meetings to discuss our problems and watch film, more dedication to perfection in practice etc. It has been nice to see. I wish we would have been this committed from day one, but as long as we are still in the championship race, I can deal with a better late than never mentality. We play California again, who just beat us in our last game. They are coming off a loss to Florida and need a win like we do. Traveling from
the west coast to the east is never easy and playing a team off of a bye week that you just beat makes things even more difficult. At the end of the day, we need to play better to win however, and I am certain we will. Special teams and field position hurt us in that game and we have corrected that. I’ve had my best week of practice and my body is coming around. The rest really helped me over the bye week, as did my time spent in Minnesota. Being out of competitive football for so long has really caught up to me. I can honestly say it has taken me the last two months to get my body back acclimated to playing at my usual level, as well as to the point I feel comfortable with my surgerically repaired knee. I am chomping at the bit to get out there. Playing at Giants stadium is especially fun for me since I played for them 03-04 and it is technically a home game for us (although I am not sure how we’ll compete with game 2 of the World Series in NY!).
Enough writing, enough talking-it’s go time. Tomorrow 7 Eastern on Versus- check out a vastly improved Sentinel team!
Post game #2
Another tough loss. Having only six games in your season, each game is imperative if you have visions of playing in the championship game. We have set ourselves back starting the season 0-2 but fortunate for us, Florida is the only team that is undeafeated, so that second spot is sitting there waiting for someone to take it. The ball is still in our court, we control our destiny–that is all one can hope for.
Once again my main focus for the game was to be the special team ace. A quality football team has players that know, accept and flourish in their roles. My role, for the time being, is to be a special teams demon. I feel confident with each snap that I am quickly becoming that for this team. I had 20 snaps of special team play (5 offensive snaps) and felt really good for all but one of those. I had two tackles and somewhat assisted in two others. I was disappointed I didnt get to the punter for a punt block, however this team really does get the ball of quickly. As a gunner, I made two tackles and
didn’t get blocked by the single press all night (unfortunately we punted a lot). As for kickoff, I beat my guy both times, however was the backside of the play both times so I was not able to make a tackle. Kickoff return had some ups and downs. This is the most challenging special team of them all: drop back to the 30 yard line, wait for a full speed defender (usually 50 pounds heavier than me) to try to juke or run through you, while a wedge is running up your back. The last kickoff return left a bad taste in my mouth because the guy I was supposed to block made a hit on our returner. I’m not looking forward to hearing about that once we watch film.
This upcoming week we have a bye, followed by another test against California, this time at home. It will be nice to get back to Minnesota, rest up and get focused on the second half of the season and getting some wins. I’m planning on staying in California for two days, followed by Minnesota for four days before heading back to Florida for practice next Sat 10/24.
Best wishes to GAC vs. Augsburg and congrats on a second week of a clutch finish.
Entry – 11 – Friday, October 17
Game 1 – Post Game
Football is definitely a momentum sport. Up 10-0 in the first half and the ball with a first down on the 1 yard line, seconds away from 17-0, we fumble the ball, they recover and march down the field and score. Momentum switches, and they end up rolling over us 35-13. We had them by the throat, about to crush their spirits and most likely take the game from them, only to turn the ball over. Tough way to lose. As for me, it was nice to get back on the gridiron for the first time in some time. I played the whole game on all four special teams units, while limited work as a receiver. I was in the game to in the first quarter as a WR but didn’t come flat enough on a slant route in the redzone. The cornerback undercut it and got his hands on it, preventing a sure TD by me and almost getting an interception. My coach was less than pleased about my route, so I got replaced the following series by a different WR. Back to reality with pro sports! I learned from it however and feel more confident for the future games to come. I am proud to say I did record the first ever tackle in NY Sentinels history on the opening kickoff. That has to be on a trivia card someday right!?! :] Next game Sat in San Francisco
Game 2 – Prep
This week has been a tough one for me and the team. It is always a little harder coming off a loss to get motivated to push through 3 hour practices, especially in 100 degree heat. On one hand, we want to get that taste out of our mouths, on the other hand, some players are questioning how good we actually are, compared to how good we thought we were. I am recovering from a sprained ankle suffered in the second half of the game. It looks terrible, but I can still practice and play on it, so I am not concerned.
I feel confident about this game. Not only is the team more prepared and focused, but I have that one game under my belt and I know I can and will be more effective in each phase of the game I am a part of. Extra motivation is provided by the fact that we have the following week off due to it being our ‘BYE’ week. I get to go back to Minnesota and spend some much needed time with my family and friends, as well as rest and relax. That, in addition to our first road trip (despite the 6 hour flight!) should be more than enough to provide the spark we need to play at a high level. I am ready to go. It is looking like I will be playing all the special teams again, as well as mixing in a little more WR this week. I am prepared to play anything and everything. Over preparation makes the games seem like extended practices. Taking the thinking out of the game, allows a person to play fast. My game is speed. Bring it on Redwoods.
Best wishes to my Gusties this week. Congratulations to the team for a big homecoming win last week vs. one of my former
coaches, Jud Keim and the PLU Lutes.
Also congrats to MPLS Washburn for yet another conference title. Now on to capture the twin city title!
Entry 10 – Friday, October 9
After a month of practice, it is finally ready to play. For me, this will be my first significant gamesince NFL Europe in 2007. Preseason games are obviously important for someone like me, but they dont count in the standings. Starting tomorrow, these games count, and we have one goal in mind: UFL Championship Nov 27 in Las Vegas.
It has been a brutal week physically. Take into account only having four or five receivers on days, coupled with 95 degree heat (111 degree heat index!!!) and my body is ready to relax. I have today to relax, as well as tomorrow morning and afternoon before I need to step it up a few notches and get my mind right. I will be starting on KO as the L5, KOR as the LT, PR as the LE (rush guy) and gunner on punt team. In addition to this, I will be rotating as a starting Wide receiver in the game with two other players. I am very excited and blessed for this opportunity. With this, however, comes a ton of responsibility. I recognize the table being set for me to succeed and do my job, it’s up to me to fulfill the expectations of myself and the coaches. Ultimately, though, I play for an audience of One, so with faith, I can rest assured I will be taken good care of. Florida will be a good test for us. They have a number of NFL veterans on their team, and have let us know the past month how good they feel they are. We will let our pads do the talking.
Gustie homecoming this weekend vs. PLU. Should be a nice win for the great homecoming crowd. Go Gusties!!
Thanks again for all the support out there! Tune in Saturday at 6pm on HDNet to watch our game!!! If you do not have that channel, you can easily watch online as well at www.ufl-football.com.
Entry 9 – Friday, Oct 2
Officially a Sentinel
I’m happy to report that we have finally finished our last day of “training camp” and after meetings tonight, we finally get a day off after 18 straight days of football. In that time we have been in pads all but one day. It has been an intense camp, but for a professional fanchise, that lacks the ideals of an off-season program and mini-camps, I can somewhat understand why we have been going as hard as we have been. Take into account the fact that we have a first year head coach looking to get the long overdue respect in the pro football ranks, and one can understand that much more. We are down to six total wide receivers, with five of us on the active 50-man roster, and one on the two-man practice squad. Practice with only six wide receivers makes practice non stop movement. Given how hard we have been on our bodies the last three weeks, this makes practice that much more challenging. Once again though, each day before practice, I remind myself what the alternative to all this would be. How thankful I need to remain, and how blessed I am to be in this position.
Tomorrow and Monday we have days off, with Sunday being a shorter practice and Tuesday starting a game week. I am looking forward to getting away from football for awhile (besides the MN vs GB Monday night game of course!), seeing a movie, spending time with teammates and friends down here and maybe getting a fun amusement park day in.
A special thanks to Tim Kennedy who has set this blog up for me and always been a supporter of my football life, as well as my favorite football coach of all time, Tom Brown, whom I got a chance to speak with today for encouragement. Best wishes to the Gusties this weekend, as well as my Washburn Millers tonight against Mpls. North. Come on now Gusties, you gotta bounce back after last week!
Tommy Valentini quote board material, “If you ain’t here for business, you got no business being here!” Remember that. – RH #7
Wednesday, Sept 30
After six failed training camps, a new ACL, a supposed lost step, age against me, and self proclaimed worst training camp of all time, I have finally made the opening day roster. I am thrilled!
We had a meeting this evening and coach Cottrell had me stand in front of the team to start the meeting and spoke about how long I have been trying to make it and praised my perseverance. That really felt good to be recognized. It proves that what I have been doing all these years has not gone unnoticed and that hard work does pay off! Things I definitely learned from my football coaches at Gustavus as well as my track coach!
Thanks to everyone who has been following and supporting my career! I will do my best to represent Gustavus, Minneapolis as well as myself well. If God wants you to be somewhere, He’ll make it happen!
Stay tuned for another entry soon….we have our first game Oct 10 on HDNet 6pm
Tuesday, Sept 29
Tomorrow is the highly anticipated cut down day. We have had two practices this week and there have beena number of highs and lows. I am quite disappointed with my consistency thus far. I will make a great play or twoand follow it up with a drop. The number of drops I have had this camp far exceed any camp I have been associated with.
I am not quite sure why this is the case. We brought in another WR today. He is one of our offensive coordinators guys from the Cleveland Browns. Anytime guys get brought in, especially this late in camp, you realize they are being given the job and not having to compete like everyone else. It sucks for guys that have been busting their tail each and every day trying to make a name for themselves. At the end of the day, yes, this is a business, but it still stings and doesn’t seem fair a lot of the time.
I truly have no clue whether or not I am going to be kept on the team or not. The thing I have going for me is my special teams play which has been good thus far. I am still a starter on all four units, but I have learned all too often (11 times I’ve been cut) that
things can change quickly. There is nothing more I can do at this point. They have made their decision about me. I know I have at least one coach in my corner fighting to keep me (Pete Rodriguez, special teams). I rest peacefully knowing that my faith is what guides me. If this door is to close, another one will sure to be opened to me.
Sorry to see the rough loss by the Gusties last week. Hope they can rebound. It doesn’t get much easier with the Tommies this week, but I know we will give them all we have.
Stay tuned….tomorrow my football career either ends, or I make the team out of a training camp for the first time ever!
I can honestly say I have never been this sore after a game or scrimmage in my life. Everything hurts. My whole body is swollen. It will be interesting to watch how film goes for we all know that it truly is never as good or bad as you think. I feel as though
I played quite well in both phases of the game. I would have blocked a punt (wing called for holding after taking me to the ground once I beat him with an up and under move) split a double team on kickoff coverage and knocked both guys (250+ might I add) down, and made a great block on kickoff return. On offense, I caught our first TD of the season on an improvisation. The defense jumped off sides, so I just put my hand up and ran deep-Quinn Gray, our starting QB saw it and lofted a thirty-yard score past the corner that I had beaten off the line. Great way to start the season. I had a number of balls thrown my way in the game, but only had two catches. I did have one drop, which is eating at me. I have dropped a few too many balls this camp which is quite uncharacteristic of me. Take the good with the bad I suppose and continue to try to improve and remain consistent and unflapable. Day off today, 9-25 and back at it tomorrow.
Quick shout out to my Gusties who play St. Johns tomorrow! Best wishes guys….that is the one and only team I never beat during my four years at Gustavus. WIN
A Day of Rest
After six straight days in pads (pads from day one of practice) we finally got a day off of physical contact. My body is holding strong, but the sun and weather can be as draining as hitting each and every day. We have a scrimmage this week against the Florida Tuskers. It should be a great opportunity to showcase my talents. I will be starting on all four special teams, as well as the Z receiver. Get the oxygen ready! We have had seven WR’s in camp and just added an eighth, Koren Robinson. Koren and I played together in Minnesota, so it is always nice to have a familiar face within your group. Business is business however, and at the end of the day, I need to worry about me and the things that I can control. I try to remind myself everyday that there are two ways I can approach the day; this is a practice, or this is an opportunity. As long as I continue to play like every day is an opportunity to get better, be out there realizing that I could be at home wishing I was still playing, the rest will take care of itself.
Orlando week one
Not only has it been a long time since I have played versus a live defense, but this heat makes a coward of us all. That 95 degree heat and intense humidity just suck the life out of you and your mind is one of the first things to go. It’s been an adjustment, to say
the least. Wes Chandler, my former WR coach with the Vikings in 2005 is our offensive coordinator, so the transition is quite easy in terms of learning the offense. I think I have played for eleven different offensive coordinators in the NFL, so I am well prepared for most offenses, especially one in which I have a history. I’m getting a ton of opportunities on special teams, as well as with the offense to be a playmaker and potentially start. Special teams has always been my favorite part about football and I am relishing in that role as a starter on all four phases. My familiarity with the offense has put me atop the depth chart as a WR and I am still a work in progress on that end. Great play here, dropped ball there-not exactly the consistency they or I am looking for. It is only week one though. It will get better.
Got the opportunity to meet some of my teammates, take my physical, and get the low down on how the league is set up and how camp is to be run. Seems like a vast range of paths guys took to get here: arena, canada, straight from college, NFL veterans, guys who have been out of football for 2+ years. The four teams in this league really focused on getting guys they knew, which is great for me since I have played for so many coaches. No two-a-day practices we find out….music to my ears. Off to Orlando to start.
So begins the journey
I decided to drive down to Florida so I have a way of getting around the few months I am there. My brother agreed to drive with me and we stopped in Murrayville, Ga to visit our dad on the way down. It was great to see family on the cusp of training camp. Not a whole lot to do in Murrayville (100 miles north of Atlanta) but we made the best of it. I got a chance to horseback ride for the first time. Not sure my contract would allow for that, but I remained unscathed! The fun and family time over, it is time to get on with the rest of the drive and begin. No one really likes training camp, or looks forward to it. I’m just relieved I am getting another opportunity.
Here We Go Again!
I’ve decided to give football one last shot. This new league, the United Football League, seems to be doing everything they can to have success from here on out and I am excited to be a part of it. I have been signed to the NY Sentinels team, coached by Ted Cottrell, who I had as a coach when I was with the Minnesota Vikings back in 2004-05. We first are to report to Jacksonville, Fl for physicals, then on to Orlando for training camp. Despite being a NY team, we will be living in Orlando throughout the season to cut down on costs, give us someone to practice against (Florida Tusker team) and provide good weather.
I’m looking forward to getting down there again because I used to train in Florida for months on end with speed specialist Tom Shaw. It will be great to see some familiar faces.