WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Three Former Blue Raiders lead Greensboro Prowlers of Arena2 LeagueJune 9, 2003 · By Nate Rau / Special to GoBlueRaiders.com
In its fourth year of existence, the Arena2 Football League, which is the minor league affiliate of the Arena Football League, offers gridiron fans a way to get their fix once the NFL season has ended in January. It also offers an edgy take on the game, with 7-on-7 alignments, no out-of-bounds lines, and final scores that frequently reach into the 60s or 70s.
For two former Blue Raider players the league offers the opportunity to play football and for another it offers the opportunity to coach football professionally.
Mario Kelso and Tanaka Scott are members of the Greensboro Prowlers, one of the league's original members. Kelso was a Blue Raider from 1998-1999 and Scott was a defensive end for the Blue Raiders in 2000 and 2001.
"There's a lot of pressure and work that you put in at the university level and it prepared me for (the Arena2 League)," Scott said. "All the discipline I learned at Middle Tennessee has carried over, from watching game tape, to working out in the weight room, it all helped me for playing here."
Scott, a defensive lineman at Middle Tennessee, came to the Prowlers when he was contacted by former Blue Raider star Joe Campbell, assistant head coach and defensive coordinator for Greensboro, who offered Scott the chance to continue his playing career.
For Scott, the adjustment was difficult for various reasons. First, he was recovering from a shoulder injury from his last season in Murfreesboro, but he also had to learn how to play offensive line, because Arena2 players play both ways, and have to be conditioned to play the entire game.
"(The conditioning) really wasn't a problem for me after my first game which was a challenge," Scott said. "It was a challenge learning the offensive line as well, because I've always been a defender, but coach Campbell took me under his wing and taught me how to block and how to angle myself.
"I think I'm coming into my own- we're leading the league in least no. of sacks allowed."
Defensively, Scott hadn't lost his touch three games into the 2003 season, he had 6.5 sacks, two blocked kicks, and two quarterback hurries.
Coach Campbell remembers Scott's first game as a monumental learning experience. In order to teach Scott the rigors of the league's stiff substitution rules (a player may not re-enter during a quarter, once he has been subbed out). At halftime, Campbell thought the team might have to give Scott an I-V, he was so dehydrated.
"He has finally figured the game out and has really come along well," Campbell said. "He's a guy we thought we could bring along slowly to help his learning curve, but we couldn't because we lost a few lineman.
"We had to throw him into the fire, but he's been great. He is our sack-leader and he's finally picking up the blocking aspect too."
After a season with the Roanoke (Va.) franchise, Kelso joined the Prowlers just two weeks ago. During his first season in the league Kelso, who also had a background as a defender having played defensive back for Middle Tennessee, also struggled to adjust to the new league. For Kelso, the biggest adjustment was the conditioning aspect.
"It was an adjustment and I had to play some offense and it took a toll on me because I wasn't use to running routes and being on the field the entire game," Kelso said. "It's flag football in pads so you're constantly running, so for me it was harder physically."
When he joined the Prowlers, Kelso was designated as the team's defensive specialist (each team is allowed to use one player exclusively on offense or defense). It didn't take him long to make an impact, as Kelso broke the team record with three interceptions in the game, a 60-53 win over Charleston. His standout performance earned Kelso the Defensive Player of the game honors.
"I came here to help the team win and get myself better," Kelso said. "Last week the the plays came to me and I made them. I see them happen and (playing defenive back) just sort of comes naturally to me."
Coach Campbell's journey to the Arena2 league has spanned the NFL, the CFL, and the Arena League as a player. When his body finally started to give, Campbell took to coaching.
"It isn't the same as playing and being out there knocking guys around," Campbell said. "But it's the next best thing. It's still the battle- it's still you versus the other guy."
Campbell, a Nashville native and Stratford high school graduate, says he's proud of the influence he and other Middle Tennessee graduates have had on the football world.
"There are certain programs that if you get a kid out of those programs, you know you're going to have a quality individual, and Middle Tennessee is just one of those programs," Campbell said. "If a kid is able to stay at Middle you know they have good character and good work ethic. If you have character and work ethic, everything else is second nature.
"Just me knowing Middle Tennessee and its program has really paid off; it helped us get Mario and Tanaka here and it has helped (NFL Europe player) Jykine Bradley- so (former) Middle players are definitely out there and definitely making an impact."
Nate Rau is an undergraduate student at Middle Tennessee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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