Rivals football league provides athletes with chance to fulfill dream

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published April 17, 2014


MOUNT CLEMENS — Joshua Goodnough has always dreamed of playing in the NFL and admits that he didn’t take advantage of his opportunity the first time around.

He played college football at Adrian College and bounced around between the Arena Football League and semi-professional football outfits. Goodnough, a 2004 graduate of Mount Clemens High School, is looking for another shot at making an NFL roster.

“That’s the ultimate goal,” Goodnough said.

The Rivals Professional Football League may give him that chance.

The RPFL is a professional football organization that will compete in American 11-on-11 football from May to July. The league will consist of four teams, with each team competing in four preseason and six regular-season games. The top two teams will then move on to compete in a televised league championship game. The league consists of the Detroit Cougars (which will play at Mount Clemens High), Akron Blaze (University of Akron), Southern Michigan Mustangs (Gibraltar Carlson) and Chicago Kings (Niles North High School).

Goodnough participated in an April 13 tryout for the Detroit Cougars at Mount Clemens High, which will serve as the Cougars’ home field. About 100 athletes paid $145 to attend the tryout, according to RPFL CEO Quentin Hines. Goodnough made the cut and is eligible to be drafted.

“I’m just looking for another opportunity,” Goodnough said.

Hines, the grandson of Detroit Tigers great Willie Horton, said the league serves as a vehicle to provide players like Goodnough an opportunity to continue their football careers.

Hines, a 2008 graduate of Mount Clemens High School, played running back at the University of Akron and was signed as a free agent by the New England Patriots in 2012. He said he and a friend discussed establishing a developmental league while in college. He talked of players who achieved great acclaim in high school and college, but couldn’t continue their career for various reasons.

“I felt like there had to be another way,” Hines said April 15. “I’m here to create an opportunity for the guys who can’t go to college or for the guys who didn’t stick in college for whatever reason and aren’t yet eligible for the NFL Draft,” Hines said. “I wanted to create a league that would allow these players to play 11-on-11 football. Other leagues, like the Arena Football League, present a different game. If I’m going to have a developmental league, we have to have rules similar to the NFL.”

Hines decided to take some of the money he made as a member of the Patriots to start the RPFL. He said he received contributions from investors and started the league with about $205,000. Hines said facilities were located that would house the teams and contracts were put in place. Coaches for each team are already staffed, as well. Tryouts took place April 12-13, with about 100 players showing up for each team. He said he set the $145 fee to weed out the athletes who aren’t serious about the opportunity being presented. The league generated about $170,000 from the tryouts, according to Hines. Players from across the country attended the tryouts, Hines said.

The draft is set for 2 p.m. April 26 at Mount Clemens High. It will consist of 10 rounds, with 20 selections per round, making up 200 draft picks. To be draft-eligible, prospects must be at least 18 years old, have attended a tryout and have been invited to the draft. Interested patrons can attend the draft. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at www.rivals2014.com. Tickets to games will be $10, Hines said.

Drafted players will come solely from those who attended the tryouts, Hines said. The free agent pool will be made up of others who participated in the tryouts, he said. The league may also hold midseason tryouts.

Each team will consist of 50 professional roster spots and between seven and 11 practice squad players. Each team has a budget of about $80,000, Hines said, with about $52,500 set aside for player salaries. About $12,000 goes to coaches. The rest is for facilities and travel. Hines said the league is working with Blue Lakes Charters to provide travel for each team.

Hines said he is using relationships he’s built to get as many eyes as possible on the league’s players. He said he plans to have NFL scouts on site at each game, with the hopes of seeing some RPFL players receive invitations to NFL camps. If players don’t receive NFL invites, Hines said, there will be an open pro day where the league’s top prospects can showcase their skills in front of NFL scouts. If no players are taken from that showing, Hines said he’s working with NFL officials to invite 20 RPFL prospects to the NFL regional combine, which takes place in every NFL city.

“So it’s a process. Were working as hard as we can to get these guys to the NFL,” Hines said. “If that doesn’t work, we’ll bring them back in, let them watch more film and play another season, and get more experience.”

Some who play in the RPFL won’t be eligible for the NFL right away. To be eligible for the NFL, a prospect must be three years removed from high school. That stipulation is included in the league collective bargaining agreement.

Some of the players who showed up for tryouts for the RPFL were highly touted out of high school but didn’t stay in college for whatever reason, Hines said, adding that the goal is to bring players in, get them some playing experience and, when they’re ready, market the players to higher-paying leagues.

“I’ve played semi pro and for the Detroit Thunder in the AFL,” Goodnough said. “The tryout for the (RPFL) was more intense than any of the tryouts in the other leagues I’ve played in.

“You really felt like you had to give 110 percent or you weren’t going to make it. I feel that how this league looks like it’s being run will help the players a lot in the long-run.”

Hines said he wants to build a league that can have sustained success. He knows he started out small, but he has taken donations from private investors and received funds from Mutual of Omaha and McLaren Health Care for sponsorships. The league has partnered with ESPN Radio (105.1 FM) and will have games featured on WADL-TV 38. That will allow the league to sell commercial spots to generate revenue.

“That will definitely give us some credibility and possibly put us in 550,000 homes,” Hines said. “We’ve had a modest start. We’re trying to set a foundation. Then we want to find other ways to generate revenue.”

Hines said he chose the home sites for each team because of his ties with the Midwest. He said using relationships he’s built over a number of years helped in the process. He added keeping the teams in close proximity helps with travel expenses.

Hines was released by the Patriots March 10. He said the Miami Dolphins have invited him in for a workout and physical, and have interest in signing him.

Hines said returning to the NFL would not take away from his duties with the RPFL.

“I’ll have my hands on the ground. I’m running the RPFL in the NFL offseason,” Hines said. “Some players are at the (NFL) team facilities during the time (RPFL) games will be played, but not all of them. I think the timing has afforded me the ability to run the RPFL, work out and still be ready for an NFL training camp at the end of July.”

Hines touted the atmosphere fans can expect when they attend RPFL games. He said patrons can expect a college atmosphere, including games for youths. He said there will be halftime entertainment and special attractions, as well. Most of all, fans will have the chance to see some athletes who are hungry for success.

“I’m creating a league of opportunity,” Hines said. “I don’t care where you played. If you can play, I’m going to give you an opportunity.”

For more information on the league, check www.rivals2014.com.

Ready for some football

The Detroit Cougars, and the rest of the teams in the Rivals Professional Football League, will begin their first season next month with four preseason games. The regular season consists of six contests. Here is a snapshot of the Cougars’ 2014 schedule. Home games are in bold. Games take place at 6:30 p.m. The Cougars’ home contests will be played at Mount Clemens High School, 155 Cass Ave. For more information on the league, check www.rivals2014.com.

5/16 — Chicago
5/23 — Akron
5/30 — Southern Michigan
6/6 — Akron

Regular season
6/13 — Southern Michigan
6/20 — Chicago
6/27 — Akron
7/5 — Southern Michigan
7/11 —Bye
7/18 — Akron