While it’s not uncommon for arena football teams to setup or partner with developmental football teams to have a sort of farm system, the Midway Marauders took a different approach. They initially set up their indoor team as a feeder for their developmental team. However, it wasn’t long before things would change for owner Chris Mathews.
“We started the arena team from scratch,” Mathews told Developmental Football USA. “My brother actually owns the Midway Marauders developmental team. I’ve helped him manage it for the past few years and learned the ropes of running a team. We started an indoor team to get our young guys and new recruits more development in the off-season. However, I’m really competitive and guys in the league started saying how weak we are going to be. That didn’t set well with me. I want it to be a dominant and elite team so I went out and recruited some of the best talent in the Chicago area and put together this team I have now.”
Despite being a newly assembled roster, the Marauders already have some established players who should be able to help shorten the learning curve for this talented, yet inexperienced, team. Leading the way offensively are quarterback Andre Lock and playmaker Jamel Smith.
“Andre is one of my team captains,” Mathews said. “He’s truly a leader on my team. He’s a very athletic guy and was voted one of the best players in Illinois semi-pro football as a member of the Chi City Ducks. He’s got a lot of arena experience and brings a lot to the team. Jamel Smith has already shown he will live up to the hype. He has a lot of arena experience and has been a really good semi-pro player. He’s a go-to guy for us and when in doubt, that’s who we go to.”
Defensively the Marauders also have the type of talent that very few first-year teams get. From elite linebacker Carl Young to former All-American defensive lineman Tremaine Berry, Midway should present issues for offenses in the MPIF.
Not only are the Marauders looking to make an impact on the field, but the organization is committed to making a difference off the field as well.
“We are very active in the community,” Mathews said. “In the past year alone, we’ve already started an outreach program. In November, my team got together and put a status up on Facebook seeing if any families out there needed help getting a Thanksgiving meal. Four people responded so we were able to provide five meals to four families. Before our December 17th scrimmage, our team got out and fully sponsored a Feed the Homeless drive. We went out and provided two hundred lunches to homeless people. For our game on February 11th against Oak Park Sharks, both teams came together to make it a charity game. There’s a group called Protect the Shorties in Chicago. It’s a big-brother program for kids that don’t have fathers. We have the game for them and all proceeds go to them. We will also do an autograph session, a photo session, and frame jerseys for the kids. That’s just what we have planned so far, but I’m sure we’ll think of other things to do later in the year.”
Most new teams go through early struggles as a team of strangers get used to each other and their individual playing styles, but it doesn’t appear that will be an issue for the Marauders.
“We have come together quickly and it’s really crazy how much of a bond we have,” Mathews said. “A lot of the time with a lot of talented players, egos come into play. These guys though, they have really check their egos at their door and come together as one and are focused on winning a championship. We have the talent, we have the work ethic, so now we just have to produce on the field and that’s what we plan on doing.”
The Marauders have big expectations, but regardless of how the season goes for the new MPIF team, it’s clear that the Chicago-area is a better place with them there.