CEDAR RAPIDS — The pads are popping again at the U.S. Cellular Center.
The Cedar Rapids River Kings opened training camp on Friday in preparation for the 2020 Indoor Football League season, and apart from a couple of players, not much is recognizable.
Given the lack of success on the field the last three years, that is probably a good thing.
“We are here to represent the city,” first-year Cedar Rapids Coach Victor Mann said. “It is not about us. … The years before they go to the playoffs and the years after they don’t. But what changes? The coaches and the players. The fans don’t change. The facility doesn’t change. So we have to come in and do our part to make everybody want to come in here and enjoy their team. We are the people’s team.”
Mann, 37, played college football at Kansas State under legendary coach Bill Snyder and brings a host of experience both playing and coaching in the indoor game to Cedar Rapids, including a Champions Indoor Football championship in 2017 as coach of the Texas Revolution.
“I have been around a lot of great coaches,” Mann said. “So I take a little bit of all of them. I take my discipline and structure from Coach Snyder, for sure.”
On Friday, there were 36 players in camp. A few more should arrive this week to reach the maximum number of 40. All are competing for a spot on the 25-man roster, which needs to be finalized within two days of the March 7 season-opening game at home against the Quad City Steamwheelers.
“Just a guy that has the ‘never lose’ attitude,” Mann said of the type of players he is looking for. “I want to win at all costs. I want it worse than the guy in front of me. It has to be the guy. The guy that wants to dominate the game and win and just really is passionate about doing whatever he has to do to win a championship. That is what we came here to do.”
There are three quarterbacks in camp, highlighted by former Nebraska Danger player Derrick Bernard and Javin Kilgo, who was a reserve on a Duke City Gladiators’ team that won the CIF last season.
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Whichever signal caller ultimately gets the nod, he will have a few intriguing targets to throw the ball to, including former Tucson receiver Shaq Curenton and indoor veteran Bones Bagaunte.
“We have got a new coaching staff in, we have got a new energy,” said Bagaunte, a former University of Cincinnati player that was a teammate of Mann’s in 2012 with the Kansas City Command. “They are setting us off on the right path. We are thinking everything at the top. We didn’t come and join this team to be at the bottom. It is a championship mindset inside and out. Be it from off-the-field activities when we are in the community, or on the field when we have got to lock in against our opponent. It is all about championship status and that is what we bring to the table.”