As the month of January winds down, the Garland Wranglers get closer and closer to kicking off their second season in the Mesquite Indoor Football League in February.
In just three weeks, on Feb. 12, the Wranglers will be featured at the Heart of Mesquite Indoor Classic, a children’s charity event, where they will play a pre-season tune-up game against the DFW Hawks. Then, two weeks later, they will kick off the regular season against the Arlington Longhorns.
“I expect to have a good season,” Wranglers owner Alan Montgomery told Developmental Football USA. “I always go in with that mindset, but I do this to help these young men fulfill their dreams. My first objective and my coaches’ first objective is to teach them and train them to play the game and to put them in the best possible position to showcase their talent. Winning is second to me.”
Montgomery’s approach has helped the Wranglers have several successful seasons in the past 17 years.
“I expect to be able to put a good product on the field, where all of my players can get legitimate looks, then winning comes second,” Montgomery said. “If I teach them how to win, then we’ll win. That’s why I’ve been to the playoffs pretty much every year.”
Following tryouts for the team, the Wranglers have kept 27 players around to look at further, but MIFL rules permit them to only dress out 25 each night. Montgomery and the coaching staff are faced with the task of deciding on the 25 players who are most ready for live arena action and so far several of them have made a strong case for playing time.
“I have a young man named Bryston Porter,” Montgomery said. “He plays slot receiver. I have a young man on offense. His name is Darius Tolbert, he plays wide receiver. I also have a young man that plays running back, his name is Clayton Sullivant, and on the offensive line I have a young man named Sterling Porter, who is getting ready to graduate from Texas College. He’s a senior and he played there four years on the offensive and defensive lines.”
Tolbert was one of the top scoring receivers in the league one year ago and looks to expand on that in 2017.
“At 6-foot-6, he drew the attention of the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League,” Montgomery said. “We are looking for him to be picked up this season as well.”
Sullivant brings a rare combination of size and speed to the running back position, where he could prove to be a real monster for the Wranglers.
“Clayton played tight end last year,” Montgomery said. “He’s 6-2, 240. We clocked him at a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash. He played tight end last year and some linebacker. This year I decided to move him to running back, because in arena, a lot of teams like big running backs.
“Most of them are used for blocking. That’s how I get them to exploit their talent, I use them differently and go against the norm. A lot of people are looking for a big running back and Clayton fits that mold. He was going against guys 6-5, 280 pounds and he was blocking them. Clayton runs a 4.4 so he’s faster and a little bit more mobile. That’s why I have my eye on him, and he’s going to play linebacker too where he played in high school and college.”
In addition to Sullivant, Montgomery believes Porter – a former Midwestern State Mustang – is another player who has a strong chance to make it to the next level after a solid season with the Wranglers.
“Bryston is a new player, we got him through a tryout,” Montgomery said. “At the tryout, we clocked him at a 4.3, so he has good speed and good hands. He has at least a year of arena experience and he has good ability and good recognition. He’s a guy that might be able to get picked up and play somewhere. I’m looking forward to putting him out on the field and seeing what he can do.”
Two-way player Lance Gettenmeier, who previously played for Linwood University, is another player who could make some noise for the Wranglers and move on to the next level.
“Lance actually came to me as a defensive end,” Montgomery said. “I got him from a tryout from the Dallas Marshals. They were looking at him, but they said they wanted to work on his footwork, so I got him over here to work on his footwork and come to find out, he can play offensive tackle too, and he can catch. He’s 6-7, 300 pounds and we clocked him at a 4.6 in the 40-yard dash. That’s good speed for someone that size. He’s got hands and he can catch.”
In the arena game, one tackle can be used like a tight end as an eligible receiver, so Gettenmeier could become a multidimensional threat for Garland.
“We’ve been working on his footwork and getting better with his feet,” Montgomery said. “I’m looking for somebody to pick him up. The Marshals are interested in him, they just want him to work on his footwork.”
Another lineman that could be a force for the Wranglers is Cameron Sterns.
“He’s another guy I’m expecting big things from,” Montgomery said. “He went to Kilgore one year. He’s a big kid, he’s about 6-2, 320 pounds. He plays nose guard and he can play tackle on offense. We clocked him around a 4.7, which is good speed for a lineman. He has good footwork and good hands and he’s as strong as an ox. He’s been pretty much beating everybody in practice, even Lance, he’s even giving Lance some problems.”
Several other players come to the Wranglers with previous collegiate experience, including linebacker Jacob Pierce, who played at Paul Quinn and Grambling State, center Christian Ramos, who played for Doane College, quarterback Brian Stephenson, who played at Wayland Baptist University, and Jacoby Price who played at Ellsworth College.
“These are guys that other teams are thinking, ‘They’re not going to help me win the championship.’ They’re not thinking about what this league is for. Developmental football is about how good of a coach you are, can you develop these players?”
Montgomery’s focus isn’t just to develop them on the field, but off the field as well.
“If I can just turn them around and make them productive citizens in their community, then I’ve done my job,” Montgomery said. “I’ve got a lot of ex-players that have went on to be ministers. What makes me proud is when some of them turn into pastors or ministers.
“I’m a Christian man, my coaches are Christian and my program is a Christian environment. There’s no profanity, and if they can’t do that, they don’t play for me.”
The Wranglers play the charity game, then eight regular season games, then four teams from the MIFL make the playoffs to crown a league championship.
“Because of the charity game, we’ll end up playing nine games, possibly 11,” Montgomery said. “Some of us will play nine, some of us will play 10, and some of us will play 11. That’s my goal is to play 11.”