Indoor Football is a sport that differs tremendously from the common professional sports in the United States, and on Monday evening the Iowa Barnstormers provided another fine example of it.
The team hosted a meet-the-coach night at the Mac Shack in West Des Moines, Iowa to introduce their diehard fans to the man tasked with taking the reigns of the 2018 United Bowl champions.
Ameer Ismail introduced to Barnstormers Fans
“I love it,” Ismail said. “Des Moines is a great city. It’s very fun. Everyone here has made us feel like we’re at home. There’s a great tradition of football here. I’m just happy to be here and it’s been a great experience so far.”
The first impression to Ismail that people will notice is the amount of energy he brings to the table.
Both on the field and off, Ismail always has a smile on his face and is full of glee.
“I’m going to be an energetic coach,” Ismail said. “I’m going to be in their corner and help them move up in the ranks. Maybe it’s true [that coaches can’t help you move up] but they can help develop you to help you have a better chance to move up. That’s what I pride myself in.”
Ismail also referenced the connections he has with some folks in the Canadian and National Football Leagues.
As the team starts to fill up its roster for training camp ahead of the 2020 season, that is a big plus to have with a head coach that they are marketing to potential players.
So far, Iowa has re-signed five players from their 2019 roster – which is actually right on par with what they did under former head coach Dixie Wooten.
Wooten never signed more than seven players back on a team in each of his three years in Des Moines, so don’t be worrying about chemistry issues. The Barnstormers are used to it.
“We developed a list of guys that we liked that we want to offer contracts back from last year,” Ismail said. “Several came to mind. Some we knew were going to leave and some were on the fence, but I think a few of them are really excited about what we’re going to bring and what I’m going to be as a coach.”
Players like 2019 IFL MVP quarterback Daquan Neal, defensive back Jujann Harley, and 2019 LWOS IFL MVP Ryan Balentine have signed with the Tucson Sugar Skulls – where former Iowa coach Dixie Wooten is now established at.
Although the group of players that are returning include the Barnstormers very first signee – Connor Hollenbeck.
Hollenebeck was waiting to see who the team announced as their next head coach, and once Ismail re-signed all it took to confirm his spot was an hour phone call with him.
“What a tremendous athlete,” Ismail said. “He’s a tremendous person, athlete, and a leader. I want to develop his skills even more to be even better, and hope to make another championship run. That’s something I’m really excited about.”
Hollenbeck said that he will feed off Ismail’s excitement, just like he did when Wooten had hold of the reigns.
Of course, Ismail referenced it next.
“His excitement gets me excited more too, so if we get more excited and energetic young talent that is looking to get better and work hard to get an opportunity, [we’re going to be very good],” Ismail said.
Ismail thinks Hollenbeck has what it takes to be a top receiver in the league.
The former Edinboro University player corralled 58 receptions last season – good for second in the league. Not to mention he was on the same team as the player who earned the most in the IFL with 89 in Balentine.
Look for his numbers to climb even higher with him being on a team without the 2019 LWOS IFL MVP.
“He has the potential to be [a top receiver],” Ismail said. “For him, he’s going to get his opportunities and he’s got to make the most of them. It just depends on the game plan and our strengths are as well as the mismatches we can create. We look for him to continue to do his job and be the best him that he can be. That’s all we can ask for.”
Ismail won the National Arena League’s Coach of the Year award while he was leading the Massachusetts Pirates to the playoffs in 2017.
Ismail said there may be a few former Pirates players that could find their way to Des Moines as well.
“There’s a couple of guys that I brought with me to Massachusetts that we are in communications with right now,” Ismail said. “I don’t want to say too much, but we’ll see.”
One more thing that was discussed on Monday was the implementation of the deuce rule in the IFL.
Iowa Barnstormers owner Jeff Lamberti brought it up during his introduction of Ismail.
Essentially, the rule awards teams two points when their kickers put the ball through the uprights on kickoffs. The catch is that if they miss deep, the touchback will go to the 25-yard line, instead of the receiving team’s five.
This will impact Ismail and the team’s choice as they look for a kicker for their 2020 roster. The team has not yet signed one, but Ismail said he is a guy who will go for it on fourth down more often than kicking a field goal.
This would bring a lot more importance into his choice and a potential new kicker’s accuracy.
“That’s a big factor,” Ismail said. “We had some games in the NAL that were close just because their kickers were really good. It’s a major factor. It puts a greater emphasis on the kicker on the kickoff and not just the extra points. We’ll see how it shakes out.”
Ismail said he’s in favor of the rule being implemented with a one-point bonus for making the kickoff through the posts.
“I’m not opposed to it, but eh, probably not,” Ismail concluded about the two-point rule.
The Barnstormers will open their 2020 season in February, though the IFL’s schedule Ahas not yet been released and will not for at least a couple of weeks. For more news on signings, check out our new transaction tracker and follow us on twitter!
Current Iowa Barnstormers Roster
Coach – Ameer Ismail
12 total, 0 QB, 1 RB, 4 WR, 1 OL, 3 DL, 1 LB, 2 DB, 0 K
RB – Darrian Miller, Northern Iowa, 2018 CIF MVP
WR – Connor Hollenbeck, Edinboro
WR – Raheem Harvey, Lewis Clark Valley
WR – Brandynn Clark, Missouri Western State
WR – Carrington Thompson, Western Michigan
OL – Quante Hines, Bluefield
DL – Schnayder Termidor, Ithaca
DL – Tony Pulu, Texas A&M Commerce, CFL-Montreal Alouettes
DL – TJ Winslow, Harding
LB – Jibreel Hazly, Florida A&M, CFL-BC Lions
DB – Jeremy Glotson, Elon
DB – Jamal Marshall, North Texas, NFL-Seahawks