Victoria semi-pro football team prepares for first season

By by Stephen Herzog -
April 4, 2010 at 6:02 p.m.
Updated April 3, 2010 at 11:04 p.m.

Players of Victoria Red Rage, a new football team in the South Texas Amateur Football league, fight to pick up a dropped ball during practice at the Patti Welder field. The team's first game is May 1.

Players of Victoria Red Rage, a new football team in the South Texas Amateur Football league, fight to pick up a dropped ball during practice at the Patti Welder field. The team's first game is May 1.

It's kind of like having a secret, super-hero identity.

During the week, they're husbands, fathers, students and employees - or some combination of all of the above.

But on the weekend, they're running backs, lineman or defensive backs.

For the Victoria Red Rage, free time is just a memory now.

"I tell the guys they have to be weekend warriors," said Cody Shugart, head coach of the Red Rage - a new team in the South Texas Amateur Football league.

STAF has only been in existence for one year, and it's still in the process of expanding, with new teams this season and more to come in 2011.

It features teams nearby in Cuero and Floresville, and those a little farther away in San Antonio, College Station and Arlington.

Shugart, who coaches football at St. Joseph, decided to add Victoria to that list and put a team together this season.

"I love football and I love Victoria," Shugart said. "I wanted to give some guys an opportunity to play again."

It's a chance many didn't every expect to have after glory days of high school and college football.

Former Memorial star James Jeffries is one of a few familiar names for folks who have been around the area for awhile. Another is Chase Gallimore, a news anchor at KAVU.

Jeffries is about a decade removed from tearing up the field in Victoria.

Weekend practice, which is held about four hours a day on Friday through Sunday, is almost like a break for Jeffries, who spends the rest of his time working and being with his three kids.

He has a valuable perspective for some of the Red Rage's younger players - he can often be seen giving direction to other players, a natural role for someone who knows his football and knows what it's like to be a father.

One of those younger players is Dezmond Sweet.

He was very recently a linebacker at Memorial - as recently as a few months ago. He spends his week in the classroom, as a senior at MHS.

Sweet wanted to play football at the next level, but the opportunity wasn't there for him in the traditional sense. Instead, he'll get a chance to put the pads back on with the Red Rage.

And he's not concerned about being one of the youngest players on the field.

"It's tough because they're bigger," he said. "But I think I can handle them."

Despite his confidence, Victoria has a few athletes that would be tough for anybody to handle.

Jeremy Church, another former Viper, plays defensive end and running back for the Red Rage.

He's got a chance to provide nightmares for both offensive tackles and defensive backs with his combination of size and speed.

He's been waiting for this opportunity, too, going to school at Victoria College and working as an aluminum dealer.

He said he can't wait to get back on the field - a very common sentiment among the Red Rage.

They'll have their chance May 1 when they host Cuero.

These Victoria stars of recent past have been waiting for the opportunity to take down Cuero, a traditional high school powerhouse in the region.

But with the high school teams playing in different classes, it's their first opportunity to show that the men from Victoria can play some ball, too.

"I like to say Victoria's been under the weather," Shugart said. He believes the Red Rage are going to show everyone they belong on the field - and that means a win in the opening week.

"That's payday," he said. "For me and for all these guys."

It's not a traditional payday - semi-pro football is entirely a volunteer situation - but it's getting a return on all the hard work these "weekend warriors" have put in.

For some, it's a long awaited pay day.

Yes, it's been awhile since Jeffries has put on a show on the gridiron.

He nearly missed the chance to do it again, making it to the final tryout and securing a spot on the team.

But he's there again, evading tacklers and smelling the end zone.

With five words, he says what semi-pro football is all about:

"I got my dream back."



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