KINGSPORT — A love for the game of football is something that can last a lifetime.
For an overwhelming majority of players, high school football is the end of the line and the real world, or a college education is the next step. However, there is a new opportunity for those who still have a passion for the game in the Tri-Cities and beyond.
The newly formed Kingsport Kings semiprofessional football team is a member of the Independent American Football League and will play its home games during the summer months at a site yet to be determined.
Owner Rod Jackson, who coached last season with the Alcoa Alloys and is a firefighter in Kingsport, has been involved with football in one way or another for well over 20 years. He is especially excited about the challenge of starting up a new team.
“There are some really athletic guys out here,” he said. “We’ve got players from all over like Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee. So far, we’ve got over 40 players and the majority of them are local guys.”
Some of the players who saw the field for local high schools include Martin Main, Matt Washington, Stephen Clark and Hunter Lawson.
The age range is from 18 to 33, according to Jackson, and there are some former college players out there as well.
One of the highlighted players is Isaiah Wright, who starred in Netflix’s “Last Chance U” for two seasons. Wright played for Jackson last season in Alcoa and was a force at running back. Wright’s story is one of triumph after getting out of jail in August 2018. He was allegedly connected to a murder in Alcoa along with three others, but he pled guilty to facilitation of aggravated robbery in exchange for having the criminal homicide charge being dropped. This was according to a plea agreement.
“Isaiah is one of the guys that works hard and has been through a lot,” Jackson said. “I’m actually amazed that he isn’t on somebody’s practice squad right now.”
Jackson says the reason he took the ownership role is to help the league be a possible springboard to professional football like the NFL or the Canadian league.
“We are big on the family atmosphere,” he said. “I’m all about football and helping others. I’m a no- nonsense type of a coach, and I told the guys at the last practice that they should be here because they want to be here. … The biggest transition that I’ve had to make is being financially responsible for everything now. It’s my own money and I’m like any businessman: I don’t want to lose money. I want everyone to be like a family, but I guess I’m kind of like the big brother now.”
Jackson says that his team will run a wide open offense.
The league has teams all over East Tennessee along with three in Northern Alabama and one in Greenville, South Carolina. The regular season runs from early July to mid-to-late August with a minimum of six games. When the regular season concludes, each team will advance to the playoffs, which is double-elimination format. Each division winner will be awarded the top seed in the playoffs.
The championship game will be played in late September.