FOOTBALL

Football: For chance at NFL, Antolin heads indoors with ex-Cats

2013-06-11T00:00:00Z Football: For chance at NFL, Antolin heads indoors with ex-CatsZack Rosenblatt Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 11, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Former Arizona running back Keola Antolin isn't used to running into walls at football practice, or being tackled into them during games.

You'd have to run pretty far to hit a wall at Arizona Stadium. But that's life in the Indoor Football League, where Antolin plays for the Tri Cities Fever in Kennewick, Wash.

"You don't even realize you hit the wall," Antolin said. "It comes up so fast."

In the IFL, the field is only 50 yards, it's 8 players-on-8 (instead of 11-on-11) and padded walls surround the field.

Antolin's hit the figurative wall, too, and that one's not padded.

He closed out a productive four-year career - 500 carries, 2,906 total yards with 31 touchdowns - at the UA in 2011, went undrafted by the NFL before getting a tryout with the Arizona Cardinals. He didn't make the cut.

The Fever called him soon after and offered him a spot, but on his agent's advice, he waited out the NFL.

One year later, sans an NFL offer, he joined the Fever.

"I just wanted to come out and play football," Antolin said, "because I missed it so much.

"I just want to keep playing football because I ain't trying to get a regular job right now," he said, laughing.

He's not the only one. Four other former Arizona Wildcats call the IFL home. The league of 16 teams, which started in 2009 after a merger between the Intense Football League and the United Indoor Football league, has become a stopgap solution for players looking to make it to the next level.

There's been at least one notable IFL alumnus - Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson, who's carved out a nice NFL career after spending two years with the Sioux City Bandits and one in NFL Europa before the Bills signed him in 2006.

"I just want to get myself an opportunity to get back to the NFL," said linebacker Paul Vassallo, who also tried out with the Cardinals last year and now plays for the Wyoming Cavalry. "The opportunity to get more film, and show I'm still in shape to play.

"I've picked up long snapping while there, so that's another thing to add to my résumé."

Long-snapper, linebacker and a job at Jim Click Nissan. The latter is a necessity, because the IFL doesn't pay much.

As of 2012, players earned only $225 per game, with a $25 bonus for each win. With 14 games in a season, that amounts to $3,150 for four months of football - if they play every game - and a bit more if the team is any good.

If a player is on the inactive roster and can't play, be it for injury or some other reason, they would earn no more than $25 per game.

Vassallo's Cavalry sat at 1-12 after a 33-6 loss to the Colorado Ice on Saturday, Earls' Green Bay Blizzard is 4-9 and Antolin has missed eight of the Fever's 13 games due to injury. Of the five he's played, Tri Cities has won twice.

The league provides housing and two meals per day.

"It's a struggle," said Earls, who leads his team with 80 tackles, good for sixth-best in the league. "It's tough, but during the offseason you go back home and work part time again."

For Antolin, though, game film is money.

"Yeah it's tough," he said. "But the best thing you have is film. Some guys they think they can sit around and wait for something to happen, but the best way to get in and move up is to be on film. That's the moneymaker.

"Sure," Antolin added, "money's cool. But the biggest thing is we need film. All of us know we need film to get somewhere."

Cats in the IFL

There are five Wildcats currently playing in the IFL:

Keola Antolin

Position: Running back

Last year at UA: 2011

IFL team: Tri Cities Fever

Paul Vassallo

Position: Linebacker

Last year at UA: 2011

IFL team: Wyoming Cavalry

Derek Earls

Position: Linebacker

Last year at UA: 2011

IFL team: Green Bay Blizzard

Conan Amituanai

Position: Offensive lineman

Last year at UA: 2010

IFL team: Nebraska Danger

Lolomana Mikaele

Position: Defensive lineman

Last year at UA: 2010

IFL team: Nebraska Danger

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Pac-12 South football standings

  Conference Overall
Team W L T PCT W L T PCT
ASU 6 2 0 0.750 9 2 0 0.818
USC 6 2 0 0.750 7 3 0 0.700
Arizona 6 2 0 0.750 9 2 0 0.818
UCLA 5 2 0 0.714 8 2 0 0.800
Utah 4 4 0 0.500 7 4 0 0.636
Colorado 0 8 0 0.000 2 9 0 0.182

Pac-12 North football standings

  Conference Overall
Team W L T PCT W L T PCT
Oregon 7 1 0 0.875 10 1 0 0.909
Stanford 4 4 0 0.500 6 5 0 0.545
Cal 3 6 0 0.333 5 6 0 0.455
Oregon State 2 5 0 0.286 5 5 0 0.500
Washington 2 5 0 0.286 6 5 0 0.545
Washington State 2 6 0 0.250 3 8 0 0.273
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