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Keeping the dream alive: Salt Lake City football team lets players chase their dreams

Published: Sunday, June 30 2013 6:15 p.m. MDT

“He said, ‘It’s outdoor league ball and they’re not paying much, if they pay at all,’ and as soon as he said that, I said, ‘Hey listen, I love the game of football with a passion so I want to play,’’’ Phinisee said.

The veteran, who calls himself “29-plus” (he’s 30), says because he’s older than most of his teammates, he has taken on a leadership role. It's something he embraces. He’d love to play in the NFL again, partly because he’s a handful of games away from getting his pension, but for now he is happy playing a game he loves.

“I’m a person who enjoys life and has a passion about football,’’ he says. “I’ve had tons of job offers, but I’m holding them off because I’m still young and I can still play. You’re going to play regardless and right now I’m loving it here, enjoying myself.’’

Then there’s Collins, the 31-year-old who plays cornerback, wide receiver and gunner on special teams. He has an interception and 10 tackles this year, yet never played a down of college football. He never even played in high school, for that matter, or put on a helmet before he came to Utah. He’s one of those guys Affleck calls a “freak athlete.”

“Any football playing for me was on the street in the front yards in the neighborhoods. I guess that’s where I got my speed, running from dogs,’’ he says with a laugh.

Collins grew up going to private schools in Louisiana, but never had a chance to play organized football. At the age of 18 he went to work as a welder and came out to Utah a few years ago to work on the City Creek project. From there he got a job at Kennecott before getting laid off earlier this year.

Back in March he went to try out for a local semi-pro team. However, a man he’d just met urged him to go to the Argos’ tryout the same day instead and the rest is history.

“He never played organized football, but he does a great job for us and plays a lot of different positions,’’ says Fayed.

Looking forward

Washington said the future of the PDFL is bright with 10 teams scheduled to play next year, including several in the East. There is hope by some that down the line the league will develop a working relationship with the NFL, sort of like the D-League in pro basketball.

Despite the optimism the management, coaches and players express, there is no guarantee that the PDFL will be around for the long-term. Utah has seen too many professional franchises come and go through the years — remember the Utah Blitzz, Utah Golden Spikers, Utah Stars, Utah Starzz, Salt Lake Trappers, Salt Lake Golden Eagles and Salt Lake Sting?

Still, as long as there is a football team to play for with games and practices, players will still come from all corners of the country to chase their dreams, whether it’s an NFL veteran or a guy with no football experience whatsoever.

“When you love football, it’s not about getting paid if you love this game,’’ says Phinisee. “So all in all I’m living my dream right now, even with the Argos.’’

“I’m going somewhere, regardless of what anybody else says,’’ adds Collins. “In my mind, I think I’m going to the league, whether it’s the NFL or the Canadian Football League, I’m going to one of them. I may only have a year’s worth, but I’m going to get it in.’’

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