The town of McGehee, Arkansas, gets to experience its first ever developmental football game, when the Arkansas Bulls of the Independent Football League of Arkansas kick off their inaugural season in March.
“I’ve wanted to give back to the community,” Bulls owner Andre Brooks told Developmental Football USA. “I’ve wanted to start a semipro football team down here for people like me that like to play football, because we’ve never had one down here.”
Brooks used to travel to be part of teams in Little Rock and Fayetteville, but this year he will get to lead his hometown team onto the field and represent his community. This past year, he stepped out and did something that has been on his heart for a long time and founded the Bulls.
“We’re looking forward to the season,” Brooks said. “We’re very excited about the season, and I’m just excited to have a team in my hometown where I grew up in, instead of going off to another city or another state to play. I don’t have to do that anymore.”
The Bulls currently have more than 25 players on their roster, including Brooks himself, who played wide receiver for Kemper Junior College and Ouachita Baptist University and has played free safety at the developmental level since then.
“On defense, we’ve got a couple of guys that have played college ball,” Brooks said. “They’re still young, with fresh legs. I’ve got maybe four or five that I know will really make an impact on our defense as well as offense. I got a few like 6-foot-4, 6-foot-2 receivers.
“Our defense is going to be our core. Our d-line ranges from like 6-foot, 285 pounds with speed and we’re more of a fast team with speed and quickness. Some of them are ex-high school football stars that went to the service instead of playing college ball, so I’ve got some pretty good players on my team. I’m looking to have a really good year this year and have a great impact.”
Being a first-year team, the Bulls understand that building the culture and developing a winning mentality is a process.
“Everyone wants to win a championship, but my main goal is growth and development,” Brooks said. “I want to have a winning season, I want to win a championship, you can do all that stuff and not have growth with your organization. I want to build my organization. Growth and development are my main goals. I want to grow every year. I have a five-year plan and I want to grow every year. I don’t ever want to be the same as last year.”
The Bulls open up their IFLA season on March 5 against the Cabot Bucks.
“We’ve got some good teams in this league,” Brooks said. “There’s going to be competition, but hopefully we come out on top. I think that’s everybody’s goal. The Cabot Bucks are one of the contenders we will be facing this year. I think they started last year, they already have experience playing. With my team being first year and some of my guys never playing semipro before, I think it’s going to be a challenge, but we’ve got to do what we got to do and go hard or go home.”
Brooks, who is the head coach, owner and a player, will be faced with the task of juggling his many different responsibilities during the games, but he already has a game plan in place to handle it.
“I’ve got two other coaches also,” Brooks said. “I will be just playing defense, I won’t be playing other positions. When I come on the sideline, I’ll be coaching the offense. Being a captain, I can run the plays on defense. Kickoff and kick return, I won’t be doing those. I’ve got some high school students that will come out and run the chains and stuff like that.
“I’ve been a head football coach and head basketball coach in high school, so I have experience doing a lot of stuff, so this doesn’t really stress me.”
Regardless of how this year works out for the Bulls, Brooks is committed to his vision and plans to see it through for the long haul.
“I have a five-year plan,” Brooks said. “I want to be able to buy a field and have a fieldhouse for my team. It’s an organization, not just a semipro team. You start little, go through your obstacles, but you’ve got to keep on and pressing, keep the faith and keep on. Everybody is excited, so I can’t turn around and say I’m not having it. Whatever obstacle I face, I’ve got to know how to handle it.”