The return of the Orlando Predators was supposed to be promising. The team had folded in 2016 after playing in the Arena Football League for 25 years, but returned under the same name to the National Arena League at the start of this season.
They finished 2-12 in their first season and although there were few bright spots, they upset the defending champion Carolina Cobras on the road the Saturday before Memorial Day.
Team Owner Kenny McEntyre even posted a statement on Facebook that included:
“I want each of you to know that the Orlando Predators are here to stay,” McEntyre posted. “…Tough decisions will be made in regards to staff, players, coaches, etc. #GoPreds2020.”
Everything appeared at least kind-of alright on the outside, but what was going on behind the scenes was a shell shock of a broken organization that gave players little motivation to play for the Predators.
What really happened with the 2019 Orlando Predators
One quarterback from the team, Baylin Trujillo, wanted to speak out.
“Fans deserve to know the truth,” Trujillo said.
The former South Florida quarterback felt he needed to speak out.
“I’m one of the first players to actually [come out] and talk about this, because all of the other players are kind of scared of [McEntyre], for whatever reason,” Trujillo said. “My livelihood has nothing to do with playing professional arena football. Now it’s been awesome, but this is supposed to be the Taj Mahal of Arena Football and this is terrible.
“Our players have to have someone speak for them because they are going through this,” he added. “I don’t care if I’m taking the hit.”
Trujillo delved into the problems that arose from the heart of the organization and what really happened behind the scenes with the 2019 Predators.
The story starts on May 23 when Trujillo was signed to play for the team. He played in the team’s next game, on May 25, where they upset Carolina.
Something was off, though.
Trujillo was paid following the game, but some of his teammates weren’t. In fact, most of his teammates were seeing checks bouncing left and right.
“We started to pay attention to them,” Trujillo said.
Trujillo noticed the trend and started to compare his checks with the ones that were being bounced. The checks addressed to the quarterback were written out of McEntyre’s personal account.
The ones that were being bounced were from the, ‘Orlando Predators.’
One of the kickers that played for the team even had issues with buying his own tickets for his family and friends.
They ordered $38 worth of tickets to a game and were perplexed when they saw the money didn’t go to the Predators.
“Three or for days later, the money went through with the credit card and showed that it went through to a limo company. They got a refund.”
That wasn’t the only place where the money was drying out, either.
On the morning of June 15, players in one apartment were woken up at 7:30 a.m. with a notice of eviction.
“They told us it was already going through the court system and everything,” An evicted player that wished to remain anonymous said. “Come to find out he just didn’t pay the rent. That’s the kind of person [McEntyre] is.”
The same players car was towed later in the week. When he walked outside, it was gone.
“I knew it got towed,” The player said. “[McEntyre] didn’t pay the bills. I had to call him to get my car back.”
“Other players were texting [our] group chat about being evicted, having eviction notices on their front doors, the cops coming to their apartments, furniture being literally tossed out of their rooms and onto the side of the road for people to pick up as garbage,” Trujillo said. “There were cars being towed literally every day we had practice. A new player would say ‘I came home from practice and my car got towed. That was just going on during the season.”
The players were getting eviction notices because [McEntyre’s] name wasn’t on the leases, the players’ names were. McEntyre wasn’t paying the bills and it was (and still is) hurting athletes’ credit scores because of it.
One player who stuck around after the eviction notices were sent out, was caught several times on the apartment’s property after being forced out. If he was caught on the property once again, he would be arrested.
“He was hiding in other players’ apartments just so he could get through the day,” Trujillo said. “Then you come to practice and then go back to hiding. It was terrible.”
After the conditions got that poor, some players stopped showing up for practice.
It was beginning to be difficult to field teams to practice on both sides of the football. Why would they? There was no money coming from it.
But, Orlando lasted another week, thanks to a player on the team.
“I found out later that [McEntyre] had reached out to a player to have him pay all of our checks for the game, which came out to $4100,” Trujillo said. “He paid out of his own purse. It was from his own pocket.”
Two weeks later, Orlando coaches didn’t even play the player mentioned.
“It made absolutely no sense, [him not playing],” Trujillo said. “We actually received cash from a player after one game.”
Orlando’s next game featured a close loss to the Massachusetts Pirates in what seems like a high point in the whole saga now.
After that loss, McEntyre decided to fire offensive coordinator Ben Bennett, who Trujillo believes is one of the best coaches in the business.
The team would move on to hiring their third offensive coordinator of the season in PeeJay Jack.
The owner had promised Trujillo that the two would meet to learn the team’s new offense – a third one at that – to learn before their next game against Carolina coming up in two weeks.
They never met, and what happened in those next two weeks ahead of one of the most puzzling results we’ve seen in the recent history of arena football will come to life.
Two weeks & Two Practices ahead of shutout against Carolina
Orlando players, despite needing to learn a new offense before their game against Carolina in two weeks, didn’t practice during their bye week.
Instead a group of offensive players were supposed to go to head coach Doug Miller’s home to watch film and meet the new OC, on Sunday June 23 – a week before the game against the Cobras.
The meeting didn’t go as planned.
“During that film session his lights went out,” Trujillo said. “[McEntyre] was supposed to be paying for [his electric bill]. His lights and water went out in the middle of our session. No AC. No nothing.”
So why the behind-the-scenes challenges and massive inconveniences were going on, the head coach of the team was going through it as well.
“He was kind of pulling for us, because it he wasn’t getting paid as a coach,” Trujillo said. “It was coming out of his pocket too.”
Miller played a big role in the team actually playing that upcoming game against the Cobras, too.
The team only practiced twice that week, leading up to the game against the defending champions.
“There were players in our group chat talking about boycotting that home game so that the franchise lost the money on it since the players weren’t being paid.”
The only reason they played was because Miller convinced them to. Because Miller was going through the same thing, the players were on his side as he was on there’s.
“We were just practice dummies [going into that game],” Trujillo said. “Doug convinced them to play. Their names were on it. They played for the fans.”
The Last Straw for Trujillo
The game went on and Trujillo was sent into the game midway through the second quarter after the new offense saw no productivity.
It was the first game since the upset against the Cobras, so it was understandable that Carolina would come out playing hard to make a statement.
Trujillo was getting hit time and time again, eventually injuring his throwing hand and exiting the game in the second quarter.
He was playing alongside Bryan Hicks, who he backed up for a portion of the season. Earlier in the week, Trujillo was told that the team was thinking about cutting Hicks and rolling with him at quarterback for the rest of the season.
While he was on the sideline, Hicks heard the same thing.
“He actually overheard Kenny (McEntyre) and a couple of the other guys saying that if he didn’t play good then they were going to cut him, pretty much saying they were going to overturn the team to me,” Trujillo said. “I could just tell he wasn’t motivated to play.”
Allegedly, by halftime of that game, McEntyre had turned in eight players names to the front office that he had wanted cut.
Trujillo, despite having broken his pinky finger in his throwing hand, was put back in the game in the fourth quarter with eight minutes to play, knowing he was going to get hurt, as the Predators were shut out for the first of two times this season.
He went to his orthopedic doctor the next morning to confirm that his hand was indeed broken.
“I got a text from our offensive coordinator that [Hicks] was released,” Trujillo said. “They were asking what my status was, while I was currently in the orthopedic’s. The doctor came in, in front of our team doctor, to show that it was a complete break.”
His hand didn’t go out of place, and Trujillo was told if it felt good enough, they could tape his back pair of fingers together and he could play out the season.
That news eventually helped Trujillo to stay on the team, and tell his and his teammates’ stories.
The break wasn’t enough to convince the Predators staff, however. They were going to try to do whatever it took to keep Trujillo on the field after cutting their other quarterback from the roster before hearing the news of the injury.
Trujillo told his offensive coordinator on Monday that, despite his request for him to play, he was a no-go to take on Jacksonville on the ensuing Friday night, a mere four days later.
The injured quarterback received multiple texts from different coaches as well as McEntyre asking if he can throw a football.
“I said, *Again, I can’t go. I can’t throw,” Trujillo said.
Matt Parsons went on to play for Orlando that Friday night without practicing with the team once. Orlando lost 76-30.
Still at this time, though, Trujillo was being paid what he was owed. He was paid the whole season until he got hurt. It wasn’t until a few weeks later where he thought he was disrespected by McEntyre for the last time.
Trujillo never got paid for his games on the injured reserve list in the ensuing weeks. He reached out to McEntyre.
The majority owner ignored it. Trujillo asked again the next day and got an excuse as to why he wasn’t paid.
This went on for 4-5 days and after receiving the texts pictured below, it was finally enough for Trujillo to come forward.
“I don’t need the money,” Trujillo said. “But, it’s about the integrity.
The Future of the Orlando Predators
“There was another owner,” Trujillo said. “Nate Starling. I want to give him credit.”
Starling is a 40% owner of the team, and has much less of an impact on what goes on then McEntyre.
Trujillo was adamant the Predators were cheating themselves by allowing this.
McEntyre would leave games at halftime, and didn’t show up to the teams end of the year party after telling his team they didn’t deserve to have one.
“When [McEntyre] was supposed to show up to practice, if he never showed up, Nate did,” Trujillo said. “The team would message through Nate who would talk to [McEntyre]. He was our middle man.”
Trujillo said if things continue like they are now, there may not be an Orlando Predators team to cheer for.
“It’s unfortunate,” Trujillo said. “I don’t know what type of owner does that. I will tell you that he knows his football. He was a great player. But, I’m going to tell you right now, If [Kenny McEntyre] is the owner of the Orlando Predators next year, this team will fold.
“It’s sad,” Trujillo said. “Orlando needs the Predators. The Predators need to come back next year, but it does not need to be under the ownership of Kenny McEntyre.”