I Meet the Chesapeake Tide
Anyhow, three Chesapeake Tide players were supposed to appear at the Washington Auto Show this evening, but Lawrence Hill couldn't make it and Paul Johnson got the stomach flu, so we were just waiting for Brian Soler. The Tide employees weren't quite sure what position he played; just that he was "a big dude." Someone thought he might be a defensive back.
Brian was scheduled to appear at 4, but he didn't make it until around 4:30. He had gotten caught in traffic, and then he couldn't find a parking space. It turned out he was a 6-foot-6 290-pound offensive lineman/tight end.
Brian had played college football at Towson and had a few indoor football tryouts, with the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Pioneers of arenafootball2, and with the Philadelphia Soul of the Arena Football League. He still wanted to play football, but he decided to get a real job and try to save enough money so he could travel to other tryouts. And so he's been working as a mortgage loan officer while also serving as a volunteer fireman in Harford County. But in November, the Chesapeake Tide's defensive coordinator spotted him in a gym and invited him to an open tryout, at which point he was invited to a second tryout, at which point he was signed for training camp.
The Tide had a mini-camp last weekend, and then a meet and greet in Upper Marlboro on Wednesday night. It was the first time Brian had ever been on the receiving end of an autograph line.
"It was a really good feeling," he said. "I had a hard time sleeping Wednesday night, I'll tell you that. I definitely look forward to having my name on the back of a pro jersey. I'm not really looking for a paycheck; it's more just to say, 'Hey, I made it.'"
That's why he doesn't understand when he reads stories about NFL contract squabbles, or about players getting into legal trouble and not respecting their uniform.
"Play football, man, just play," Brian said. "If you get paid $50,000 a year, you should be happy. These guys get paid to play football and they're holding out for more money? Are you kidding me? If I ever make it to the big-time and I get to play pro football, the contract's not going to be an issue, I can tell you that much."
Owner Marty Johnson showed up at the Tide booth. While the guy next door working at the Camelback Chamois booth (the "World's Most Absorbent Fabric") did a demonstration, Marty and Brian began putting up a new Chesapeake Tide banner, one that had the proper league affiliation. Marty had finalized his deal to own the franchise last spring, as the Great Lakes Indoor Football League began its first season with six franchises; this year there will be 14 franchises and the league will be called the Continental Indoor Football League. The Tide's season starts April 1, against the New England Surge.
So anyhow, since he arrived, Brian's been talking to fans who walk by, and talking with his owner. Antwaan Randle El is supposed to sign autographs at the Easterns Automotive Group booth in a few minutes. The line for ARE's signature has already formed, and it stretches across the entire width of the Convention Center, ending just a few feet from the Chesapeake Tide's booth. Tomorrow, the team will be back with four players, the Tidal Wave Dance Team and an assistant coach.
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