Word Destroyers in a logo with a artsy football below and an image of a football player to the right and Columbus downtown skyline to left

Coaching a brand-spanking new football team is tough enough but try building one from the ground up.

Destroyers Head Coach Matt Sauk says he’s up for the challenge. Destroyers held tryouts on a recent Saturday morning at Bo Jackson’s Elite Training facility in Hilliard, and just like the name-sake of this indoor dome, Coach Sauk knows.

“This will be my second time (building a team from the ground up),” says Sauk on about the rebirth of the Columbus Destroyers of the Arena Football League, with all home games at Nationwide Arena. “Getting 35 guys in a short period of time is the greatest challenge. Two, is trying to find talent that in short amount of time. When you have a full season you have a full off-season to recruit and do other stuff.”

The Destroyers through free agency filled most of their projected roster with AFL veterans in February and early March. Adding third-year AFL defensive-back KJ Morton and 6’6", 350 lb. offensive lineman Nathan Isles, who’s spent time with the Seattle Seahawks. 

At the Bo Jackson Elite Training facility they were looking for locals. Their shot at professional football glory just a training camp invitation away.

When asked whether there may be any Vince Papale’s amongst the group, Sauk said, “Without a doubt.” Papale was the Philadelphia-native who essentially walked-on to make his beloved Eagles, a story made famous in the movie Invincible.

“I have had one guy eventually become a starter,” he said. “They are hard to find. The good thing is a lot of these guys will have a chance to come into camp or bring into the season at some time.”

The Columbus Destroyers played in the AFL from 2004 to 2008. Coaches then included Chris Spielman and Earle Bruce.

The league consists of six teams and the Destroyers open the season on the road April 27th in Albany. The home opener is May 18th at 7 pm also against Albany.

For the diehard football fan who agonizes during the NFL offseason, and that includes a lot of us here at the Free Press, the Destroyers are a great way to get your gridiron fix. And if you like a fast-paced West Coast-style of play where the quarterback is throwing on nearly every down to an array of super-quick skill players the AFL offers this in a venue where the fans are practically part of the action.

“The seats are literally right on the field, you can lean over and high-five players. That’s how close and up personal it is,” says Jeffrey Elston, communications director for the Destroyers.

But you don’t need to abandon your family on a Sunday to enjoy the AFL. The style of play in the AFL is good for one and all (ie, the kids and wife).

“There are no running backs in this league. It is a passing league. 98 percent of the time we are passing the ball. It’s lots of points. Lots of action. It’s everything you want and it’s for the casual fan, too,” says Elston.

Group and single-game tickets for the Destroyers’ 2019 season go on sale Tuesday, APRIL 2 at 10 am. You can purchase them here…

Matt Sauk