Two former Barnstormers, Wooten nominated for 2019 IFL Hall of Fame Class

2019 IFL Hall of Fame
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The Iowa Barnstormers organization experienced its first ever Indoor Football League (IFL) championship last season when they won the United Bowl against the Sioux Falls Storm.

This year, days ahead of the first rematch against Sioux Falls at Wells Fargo Arena, the franchise is lined up for another first-time occurrence.

Earlier this week, the league announced its 10 finalists for the league’s three-person, 2019 IFL Hall of Fame class.

The list contains Iowa’s current head coach Dixie Wooten along with two former Barnstormers in Javicz Jones and Bryan Pray.

Two former Barnstormers, Wooten nominated for 2019 IFL Hall of Fame Class

2019 IFL Hall of Fame Finalists
Michael Bazemore (DL – Billings, Sioux Falls)
Rockne Belmonte (K – Cedar Rapids, Wichita Falls)
Willie Copeland (DB – Arkansas, Green Bay, Cedar Rapids, Colorado)
Javicz Jones (LB – Texas, Iowa)
Kyle Kaiser (WR – Colorado)
Houston Lillard (QB – Tri-Cities)
Bryan Pray (WR – West Michigan, La Crosse, Green Bay, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Spokane)
Myniya Smith (OL – Billings, Sioux Falls)
Steven Whitehead (WR – Tri-Cities)
Dixie Wooten (QB – River City, Wichita, Nebraska | OC – Cedar Rapids | Head Coach – Iowa)

Each of the three brings their own, different case and experience to the league as far as what they did or are still doing to get nominated.

For Wooten, he is no stranger to being close to the IFL Hall of Fame, and he might even be inching closer, too. The coach, in his fourth year of being on the sidelines, has now been a finalist to go into the IFL Hall of Fame for the third straight season.

“It was the third time, but I was still surprised. It’s an honor to be on that list. I was shocked, but at the end of the day it shows they respected you as a player [too].”

Oh yeah, since the last time Wooten was nominated, he brought Des Moines their first United Bowl and first overall league championship in their franchise’s history.

“It’s a culture thing,” co-Hall of Fame finalist Bryan Pray said. “Everybody knows Iowa for Kurt Warner. Nobody knows Iowa for championships. [Wooten] is turning it into [a place] that wins championships.”

Wooten is doing it based on his immense knowledge of the indoor game.

Almost every player you could talk to would vouge for Wooten’s intelligence on the sideline has brought to Iowa.

“He’s knows schematics,” Jones said. “He understands schemes and offenses. It’s pretty cool to [have gotten] to see him go there and turn that program around.”

The pair of players on the list are the first two players in Iowa Barnstormers history to appear as IFL HOF finalists, as well.

Jones spent a vast majority of his four year career in Iowa with the Barnstormers, becoming the face of the franchise during the first three years that the team spent in the IFL.

“It came as a surprise,” Jones said. “It was pretty cool. It kind of makes you feel like it was all worth it at the end of the day. I wasn’t really expecting it being in the league for only three and a half years really. I’m at a loss for words because as a player you look to make an impact some way somehow.”

Throughout his football career, Jones viewed himself as the underdog.

He played at a high school that won once in 20 games during his high school career, before going to a NCAA Division-lll school.

“I made sure that if I wasn’t the biggest, the fastest or the strongest, then I worked the hardest,” Jones said. “It’s cool to see. It’s very cool to see.”

During his time in the league, Jones was a tackle machine.

Jones earned 100 tackles in three of his four seasons in the league, and even finished with 76 tackles in the odd season out – by the way, he only played seven games that year.

Jones wasn’t injured though, he spent time playing with the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes, trying to make the main squad. Nevertheless, Jones would return to Wells Fargo and make an immediate impact.

“When he came back, you could feel the energy that he brought with him back into that building,” Pray said of Jones’ return.

The same night, the Barnstormers nearly knocked off Sioux Falls for the first time in franchise history the same night Travis Partridge debuted at quarterback.

Barnstormers Lose Nail-Biter to Juggernaut, but Find QB in Travis Partridge

Jones had his best game of the season for Iowa, corralling 14 tackles on the night.

“My goal every game was to run to the ball no matter what and make more than 10 tackles a game. I knew if I was going to make all these tackles, I’d be doing my job, stopping the pass and stopping the run.”

Once Jones retired, the team felt different on the defensive side of the football. The player that captained the unit for three seasons in a row was no longer at the Well and no longer on the tackle sheet.

Things just didn’t work out for Jones to come back during the 2018 season where Iowa went on to win the United Bowl.

Even though he retired after 2017, too, Jones hasn’t closed the door on a comeback. He wants to break the all-time tackle record.

“Who knows, right now I’m just living day by day,” Jones said. “If I ever do make a move [to come back] it would have to be the right move.”

Pray on the other hand spent his career with a plethora of teams. There may not be a player that knows the IFL better than the former veteran that spent time during his eight-year career with six different teams.

During his time in the league, Pray is most known for setting and holding the record for most career receiving yards, tallying 5,613 of them when it was all said and done.

“I wasn’t really expecting it,” Pray said. “I played eight years in the IFL and I wouldn’t be able to do that without the help of my wife. She was there from day 1. From when I signed with West Michigan all the way to when I went out to Spokane, she was there. Without her blessing to allow me to travel across the country and play, I wouldn’t have been able to put the numbers up that I did, meet the people I’ve met, and get this nomination.”

The trio of Barnstormers each has a good shot at making the 2019 class, and one could almost make a case for all three of them to get in, in their own ways. The only thing in their way is the class size being three people.