LARAMIE, Wyo. — The rewards of playing fantasy football just became a huge dose of reality for Tony Windis.
The Rawlins native and longtime Laramie resident became an overnight national celebrity when he won a grand prize of $300,000 and a trip for two to the Super Bowl.
In his second year playing in the high stakes World Championship of Fantasy Football Main Event, he was a risk taker during the draft and made the right decisions at the right times during the National Football League season.
And as any fantasy player will divulge, his steady climb to the top was also fueled by an immeasurable amount of luck from too many variables to count.
Nearly all fantasy football leagues are now done over the Internet. They are constantly improved for easy access, constant information and news, unlimited research, programs for complex scoring and instant live game updates. Most leagues offered online are free to set up and play.
The WCOFF was organized nine years ago and offers leagues with many levels of entry fees. The Main Event is the highest category and requires players to be present for a live draft.
The draft was at the Venetian Hotel, Resort & Casino in Las Vegas on Sept. 9-12 during the first weekend of the NFL.
"You are in the Venetian ball room, which is about the size of two UW Fieldhouses, draft tables are filled with celebrities," Windis said. "It is the biggest fantasy draft in the country. All you want to do is to get down there, do well, enjoy football and have some fun."
Windis entered two teams: Gem City Raiders I for $1,750 and Gem City Raiders II for $1,250, which finished 7-4.
Windis said both teams did well, but it was Gem City Raiders I that went the distance.
"The weird thing was that I actually thought my second team was better. Then in the playoffs, my second team just laid an egg," he said.
Each team consists of 20 players and Gem City Raiders I took advantage of having the second pick overall, which Windis used on Adrian Peterson of the Vikings.
The core of his team consisted of QB Kevin Kolb (Eagles), RB Arian Foster (Texans), WR Pierre Garcon (Colts), WR Santonio Holmes (Jets), WR Hakeem Nicks (Giants), WR Deion Branch (Patriots), TE Jermichael Finley (Packers), K Rob Bironas (Titans), D Pittsburgh.
"I never thought I would get Foster with the second pick and Nicks would be in the fourth," Windis said. "The key pick for me was in the third round for Jermichael Finley, and I centered my team around him because I thought he would be a specialty tight end/receiver. But I also have a lot of Packer fans, who knew he might get hurt. So I took Jason Witten (Cowboys) in the ninth round."
The regular season is 11 weeks long and teams are matched head-to-head while also accumulating overall points.
There is also a fake budget of $1,000 to spend on acquiring free agent players through a wavier system.
"It's a blind draw. You put a price on a player that nobody else can see and at 6 p.m. on Friday nights when the waiver period is up, it goes to the highest bidder," Windis said.
Windis lost his starting quarterback in Kolb during the first quarter of the first week, and it turned into a blessing in disguise when he made his move to acquire Michael Vick (Eagles), who was the backup.
"I was naturally going to go after Vick to protect my quarterback," Windis said. "Well everybody thought he would be a one-day wonder and the next day after the waiver period came through, (Eagles coach) Andy Reid announced that Vick would be his full-time starter. If I waited, it would have cost me around $600. The $259 I got him for was still a quarter of my money, but it could've been a lot."
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