WASHINGTON — Football returns to the District in the form of the Arena Football League’s Washington Valor next spring, but this weekend affords local players the opportunity to actually be a part of what happens on the field next season. The team is holding an open tryout combine Saturday at Verizon Center, out of which they hope to find a couple dozen potential future players.
The morning will start bright and early with registration at 8:30 a.m. and will run through 3 p.m. as players will be put through the 40-yard dash, short shuttle and jump drills, then split off into individual position groups for specific skill evaluation. Those who want to take their shot at being a part of the first-ever Valor team can register for $75 in advance online or for $100 at the door Saturday morning.
“Starting a new franchise is a challenge, it’s exciting,” Valor head coach Dean Cokinos told WTOP. “And with that comes opportunity for a lot of people in a lot of different areas, especially the players.”
While he says the coaching staff has evaluated more than 1,000 players this summer, he anticipates 250-300 more on Saturday. With an active roster of just 24 and a gameday roster of 21, that may not seem to leave a lot of space for more. But everywhere Cokinos has been, the open tryout has made an impact on his clubs.
“I expect at least 25-30 that we will call back, whether it be first week of camp, second week of camp, midseason, late in the year,” he said. “We’ve always, always pulled over 10 players from these camps that have migrated back to our team at some point in time.”
In a sport like football, especially with short rosters over the course of the season, there is always need for depth. The club will carry four to six reserve players and will likely add others as the season progresses.
“In a 16-game season, injuries happen,” said Cokinos. “And we don’t have a farm system or a minor league team to go to, so we need players available.”
One such player who made Cokinos’ Georgia Force team has a name that will sound familiar to local football fans: Norman. That would be Marrio Norman, Pro Bowl cornerback Josh’s older brother. He played in the AFL for a number of years and was even briefly signed by the Baltimore Ravens in 2014.
If that story alone isn’t enough to inspire hope of being chosen, maybe this will — the team is adamant about making sure its roster has players with ties to the D.C. area.
“We’re looking for, really, players from this area that our fan base can recognize,” he added. “It’s very, very important for us that we have the ability to pull players — whether they went to high school here, have family here, played college here, maybe played pro football here — have some sort of tie to this community.”
To sign up for the combine, visit Valor’s website. Those who wish to attend should wear a T-shirt and either shorts or sweatpants with turf shoes or molded-bottom cleats. Per league rules, you must be at least 18 years old to try out.