Kent Predators quarterback aims for higher-level league after second Indoor Football League season

Kent Predators quarterback Charles McCullum shares a hotel room with another player and gets one meal per day as an Indoor Football League player. The team covers the cost of the hotel and meal for McCullum and about 16 other out-of-state players on the 30-member squad. The rest of the players are from the Puget Sound area and most have full-time jobs. Players are paid $225 per game for their only football income.

Kent Predators quarterback Charles McCullum prepares at a recent practice at Wilson Playfields for the Indoor Football League opener Feb. 25 at the ShoWare Center.

Kent Predators quarterback Charles McCullum prepares at a recent practice at Wilson Playfields for the Indoor Football League opener Feb. 25 at the ShoWare Center.

Kent Predators quarterback Charles McCullum shares a hotel room with another player and gets one meal per day as an Indoor Football League player.

The team covers the cost of the hotel and meal for McCullum and about 16 other out-of-state players on the 30-member squad. The rest of the players are from the Puget Sound area and most have full-time jobs. Players are paid $225 per game for their only football income.

“I will live check to check,” said McCullum, of Georgia, who does not have another job as he prepares for the season opener Feb. 25 against the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Storm at the ShoWare Center.

The team tries to find other jobs for the out-of-state players when they are in town for the February through June season. The Predators play seven home games and seven road games. They are in the Pacific Division along with the Tri-Cities Fever, Wenatchee Valley Venom and the Fairbanks Grizzlies.

“We help them find work,” said first-year Kent coach Keith Evans. “Some are at gyms. Some are at FedEx. Some get jobs through temporary services.”

Evans also said one of the owners of the team works in real estate and is lining up two large homes to house the 16 or so players now staying at a Kent hotel.

“Last year we were in a three-bedroom apartment and had four players living there,” McCullum said. “The living room became like another bedroom.”

The meals rotate at a variety of restaurants the Predators have lined up for sponsorships.

“We go to Denny’s one night, Chipotle the next or one of our other sponsors,” Evans said.

McCullum, who played last summer in Georgia for the Henry County Horesmen of the United South Football League, hopes his second season in Kent pays off with a job in the United Football League or Canadian Football League so he can get away from the shared housing and low income. The UFL is a five-team league that plays outdoor football in the fall.

“The goal is to move up and that somebody will give you a shot in the UFL or CFL,” said McCullum, who grew up in Atlanta. “But you have to do good. This is a steppingstone.”

McCullum, 26, who played quarterback at Stillman College, a NCAA Division II school in Tuscaloosa, Ala., figures his time in Kent is worth the effort as he tries to play at a higher professional league.

“I like my chances,” he said. “That’s why I’m here. I want to get a shot at a bigger league and make some real money. I do not want to be here next year. I want to go to the next level.”

Despite Kent’s 5-9 record last year, McCullum believes the Predators will have a better season in 2011. He has several receivers to spread the ball to among Andre Piper-Jordan, who played with the Predators last year; Michael Bush, the former Washington State University receiver; Maurice Young, who played at Tennessee State; Solomon Jones, from West Los Angeles Community College; and Aaron Straiten, who played for La Crosse in the IFL last year and played at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

“It’s too early to tell,” said McCullum about just how well the Predators might play this season. “We’ll know by Friday night if we come out on top or not. Then we will have a good outlook on what the season will be like.”

Sioux Falls lost to Billings in the championship game last year, so the opener presents a tough challenge for Kent.

For fans unfamiliar with the IFL, the game features eight-on-eight players. The end zones are 8-yards long. The field is 28 yards wide. No punting is allowed. The four quarters are 15 minutes each with a running clock.

The offense features three offensive linemen, three wide receivers, a running back and a quarterback. Four players line up on the line of scrimmage and two other players can be in forward motion at the same time before the center snaps the ball.

Teams can carry 30 players on the roster and suit up 21 each game.

The Predators, who almost didn’t come back for a second season until new owner Jeff Scott bought the team in January along with several other investors, hope to draw quite a few fans.

“We’d love to see the city of Kent and all in the valley from Auburn to Renton come out and support us our first game,” Evans said. “The Seahawks have their 12th man. We need our ninth man to give us an advantage.”

If you go

What: Sioux Falls Storm vs. Kent Predators
When: 7:05 p.m. Feb. 25
Where: ShoWare Center
Cost: $42, $38, $30, $20 and $14.50
Tickets: www.showarecenter.com or 253-856-6999

Kent will play seven home games in 2011:

Feb. 25 Sioux Falls
March 6 Fairbanks
April 1 Fairbanks
April 16 Wenatchee
May 7 Omaha
May 27 Wenatchee
June 12 Tri-Cities


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