Many Sharks still dream of playing in the NFL — or, if that chance doesn't present itself, the CFL.
“Most of the guys have been in this league long enough. They have found their niche,” says starting quarterback R.J. Archer, who was in the Vikings camp in 2010 before being cut when Minnesota added Brett Favre. “You have a job here, but if an opportunity to go to an NFL camp comes, you have to take a shot.” (Archer says he probably wouldn’t go to Canada if the CFL came calling.)
Sharks rookie defensive back Xavier Brewer played in five preseason games before being released by the Dallas Cowboys in 2013. He’s all business on getting back.
“Make sure you’re doing your job, because if you’re not, they’ll find someone else who can,” Brewer says. “I’m thankful to have an opportunity like this and put film together. There are guys who have made a name for themselves in this league and are comfortable. They’ve passed that [NFL] window as far as age goes.”
Scouts from the Jaguars and other NFL teams are often at Sharks’ games, team officials say, and coach Les Moss’ coaching connections can help players get tryouts.
AFL veterans are paid $830 per game, and rookies $775, which could add up to $14,000 to $15,000 for a player who's active for an entire 18-game season, according to the AFL’s collective bargaining agreement.
Thus, many players take seasonal or secondary jobs with flexible hours to supplement their incomes. Archer sells ads, and a couple of his teammates sell cars at local dealerships. Brewer, linebacker Charlie Hunt and assistant coach Bill Alford, a former player, have all worked as personal trainers.
Hunt says the Sharks’ team housing, allowed but not required in the CBA, is one of the best in the AFL. Many of the other amenities are first class for the league as well, he says, including the free meals offered to players through the team's corporate partnerships.
Wide receiver London Crawford raves about the treatment he’s had at Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute since his patella tendon injury and subsequent surgery. Crawford was placed on injured reserve earlier this season.