The Philadelphia Soul know what it takes to finish as Arena Football League champions. They claimed the top prize in two of the previous three seasons, and despite falling short in the opening round of playoff competition in July, Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh said the team "has the right guys, coaches and ownership" to come back strong.
"They're going to do the right thing, and we'll come back with a great mindset," Raudabaugh said at the team's open player tryouts on Saturday at Total Turf Experience in Pitman, New Jersey.
In order to return to the ArenaBowl and win the championship, Raudabaugh stressed that football is "the most unique team sport," as it "takes a whole team to accomplish a goal." "When one or two pieces aren't clicking, it really kind of has a big effect on the whole," he said.
At the tryout, Raudabaugh said the team was looking for guys who do not just contribute on the football field, but as well as off the field.
"You have to get along off the field to. You spend so much time together — traveling, practice, training room, gym, meals, just everything you do. All that stuff, we do it as a family," Raudabaugh said. "One of the goals is come together and put a good product on the field, but you have to gel and mesh off the field too, so you develop that trust and accountability. It makes going out there playing easy."
The Soul plan to hold at least one more player tryout at Total Turf Experience prior to training camp in March. Raudabaugh said it took a lot of courage for the 170 tryout attendees on Saturday to showcase their talent in front of people. To help the attendees feel comfortable and at home, many Soul players — including Raudabaugh and wide receiver Darius Reynolds — were well-involved at the tryout.
"We got guys who've been in the heat of the moment and know what it looks like to be an Arena Football player," Raudabaugh said. "These guys are out here are having fun, and we're just doing our best to contribute to them and give them a good experience. If they fit the bill and are able to contribute, we'd love to have them."
Raudabaugh missed five critical games last season due to injury, and while "Father Time" is undefeated, the nine-year veteran, two-time ArenaBowl champion and 2015 AFL Most Valuable Player is far from considering retirement anytime soon. Yet, once his playing career is over, Raudabaugh sees himself as a coach or general manager in the expanding league. He was active at the tryout in drills, recording times and offering overall encouragement and advice.
"I would love to be a coach. This game has provided so much to me, and I would love if this game can expand and grow, and one day be a head coach or general manager in this league," Raudabaugh said.
"I still like throwing touchdowns and winning championships first, so we're going to do that until the wheels fall off."