Revamped Roanoke Rush look to renew semi-pro success in the valley
The valley's newest squad is hoping an old name can help bring a winning culture back to the region.
ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Semi-pro football teams in the Roanoke Valley have had their fair share of false starts in recent years.
But this time around is setting up to be different.
“Most teams from around here in Roanoke, there would be like four guys coming to practice,” said Maleique Morton, who plays linebacker and running back. “This team is like everybody showing up. We haven’t really had that.”
Meet the Roanoke Rush: a team that might sound familiar to football fans in the area.
“I remember growing up, going to Victory Stadium and watching the old iteration of the Roanoke Rush, so I just kind of wanted to bring back a name that maybe the people in the valley remembered and try to gain some support from it,” said Pope Mitchell, the new team’s owner, GM and head coach.
It’s Mitchell’s vision that’s driving players of varying backgrounds to give football in Roanoke another shot.
“A lot of these guys have played in college,” said strength and conditioning coach Devin Johnson. “A lot of these guys have played in high school and they were promised something at one point in their college or high school careers. Some of these guys have had injuries and this is their way to get back.”
Those who've played on past Roanoke teams say the motivation to win has never been higher - a shift in focus they credit to Mitchell's leadership.
“His drive and the will to win,” explained Morton. “The last couple of coaches I played for, they just wanted to be out there. They didn’t want to win. So, that’s what made me want to come to this team.”
“I played with teams in Carolina and Radford,” said running back and defensive back Latrell Davis. “I haven’t played here because I didn’t feel that they were motivated, but now, I see that they’re motivated, so I’m giving it a shot.”
The team has practiced weekly since February, with some players coming from as far as South Boston and West Virginia.
And though each player has his own reason for suiting up, Mitchell said his whole team is eager to change the narrative.
“We have the players who are motivated,” he said. “They’re giving their all and they’re dedicated. And myself, I’m not going to stop. I’m not going to accept failure. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure we put a successful product on the field.”
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