Rush’s success starts on defense
BY SETH GRUEN For Sun-Times Media March 5, 2012 10:30PM
Vic Hall had 15 interceptions last season as a rookie for the Rush, second-most in Arena Football League history.
Updated: April 10, 2012 10:23AM
Last year, the Rush was the kind of team that probably left Arena Football League executives scratching their heads.
In a league built for offense, the Rush set the AFL record with 56 takeaways and allowed a league-low 46 points per game.
It won a franchise-record 13 regular-season games largely because of its defense. That shouldn’t change this season considering the Rush re-signed defensive back Vic Hall and jack linebacker Kelvin Morris, two of the league’s top defensive players in 2011.
“We put a lot of hard work into it, and we’re not going to accept the fact that it’s an offensive league,” Hall said.
“We got a lot of guys that it’s their first year in the Arena League, but we’ve got a lot of talented guys that can and will get after the quarterback.”
Despite missing five games last season, Hall had 15 interceptions as a rookie, second-most in league history.
The addition of former Illini defensive lineman Derek Walker could help Hall have a repeat performance. Walker spent time in the NFL, most recently with the Seattle Seahawks, but his career has been derailed by knee and back injuries.
The lockout prevented him from working out for teams last offseason and left him without an NFL contract. He went to the now-defunct UFL, where he suffered the back injury.
He’s hoping his first crack at the indoor game will show NFL teams that he’s healthy.
“It just seemed like a good opportunity to get back into playing and try to get back into competitive football,” Walker said. “Just see if my body is back to where I thought it would be.
“The games are fun. I’m not going to lie, it’s different. It’s been an adjustment, but it’s been a good time. It’s been a good experience so far.”
While the Rush returns several players on both sides of the ball, the team’s biggest struggle might come off the field.
With the exception of starting quarterbacks, AFL players make $400 a week in addition to their room and board. Many of them need to work for additional income.
It has been a struggle for some to find part-time jobs that mesh with their commitment to football. Others work with the team and their employer to ensure they can fulfill both commitments.
Notably absent from the team’s media day Monday was wide receiver Reggie Gray. He set franchise records in points scored (322), receptions (130) and receiving yards (1,969) last season.
He had a work commitment that he cleared with coach Bob McMillen before Monday.
“We’ve got to be flexible,” McMillen said. “If they have to leave early to go to work instead and miss a meeting, if they have to leave a few minutes early at the end of practice, we’ll do that.
“I’m trying to be flexible with our players, allowing them to be able to make money on the outside, and that’s what we have to do here and that’s what every coach, I believe, in the Arena Football League is dealing with.”