23 minutes | Jul 16th 2020

Matt Avila with the Duke City Gladiators

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Kevin: Mixing It Up With The Fitness Community is a podcast created by Fit Mix that introduces you to local health and fitness individuals along with their stories.Kevin: Episode 16. Matt Avila with the Duke City Gladiators. In this episode, Sara and Matt dive into the fast-paced, high-scoring indoor football team, their work with the community, and some hints to changes happening in the future.Sara: All right. Hello, Matt. How are you doing today?Matt: I'm doing pretty good. Yourself?Sara: Doing well. Doing well, can't complain. I wish there was some football. Some preseason football to be watching right now. But, you know, we're dealing with that.Matt: I know the feeling. It's hard to, you know, realize that I look at the schedule. I have it to the right of me, and it's like, well, we would be in the playoffs right now. And, you know, but we're not. Nobodies Playing.Sara: Yes, it's a bummer. It's my favorite sport too. So for those who don't know, you are one of the owners of Duke City Gladiators, is that correct?Matt: My title is director of public affairs for the Duke City Gladiators. Sara: Ok. Director of Public Affairs. Awesome. OK. So for people who also don't know who the Duke City Gladiators are. Tell us who you guys are, what you do, and all those good things.Matt: So we are in the arena football team and it is professional football. So what it's very different from the outdoor game. We actually play, obviously, indoors and we lay down a turf. We put it inside Tingley Coliseum. We select players from all across the country, whether it's players from, you know, Big Ten colleges, top 12 colleges. And a lot of my players actually come from the NFL. And we move them here to Albuquerque, New Mexico. We negotiate, obviously, a contract for pay because they are professional ball players. And, you know, they play here in Duke City and they put on one heck of a show for all of the fans.Sara: Yeah, that they definitely do. For people who don't really know arena football. It's so much more fast-paced, so much more intense and the action is packed in non-stop. Talk about how it's maybe a little bit different than outdoor football that we're all used to.Matt: The big difference as a fan. Right. So as a fan, when you walk into Tingley Coliseum, you're going to notice that the field is only 50 yards in length. And then you're also going to notice that there's no sidelines. It's actually a wall. So if you picture a hockey stadium or a hockey arena with those walls and we put pads on it. And that's actually the sideline for these boys. And so there is no catch the ball run out of bounds. You know, you catch the ball. You try to run out of bounce. You're going to hit the wall. And then you're going to get hit by another player. So it's very, very fast paced. To the arena football player, the difference is actually the width on the field. So that's only twenty-five yards. That's the biggest difference, because that means that we only play eight on eight instead of eleven on eleven. Which is actually the outdoor league. Sara: And is it two halves rather than four quarters. Is that correct or am I wrong?Matt: Yes. So it is a four quarter game. It's the same as the NFL on that one. So same length and time on the quarters and then also same timeouts, challenge flags. All that is the same as the NFL.Sara: Ok, and how many players are on the field at a time?Matt: There is eight on eight.Sara: Ok, so that's different from outdoor football. Correct?Matt: Yes, definitely. So what you're really doing is you're taking away a couple of the linemen positions at that point.Sara: And these are really high scoring games. I've been to a few games and the scores were in like the 60s and 70s or 50s. And so it's like really nonstop. If you're looking for a high pace-game which sometime outdoor football can be kind of slow. I remember a couple of games like Steelers vs. Miami Dolphins, it came down to one field goal. That was like way back then. So it's like if you're looking for more action, this is the place to be really.Matt: Yeah, most definitely. It's so fast-paced and being inside of Tingley, every hit and every I mean, you can hear a lot of the language on the field as well. So that's one of the things is it almost echoes inside of that arena. Where it really gets so loud and that's where big-time advantage really does influence.Sara: Yeah, absolutely, you really do feel like you're down on the field, and especially if you're on those bottom rows right next to the field. Yeah, you definitely feel like you're right there in the game.Matt: Yes, definitely.Sara: So you're 2021 would be your third season. Or how many seasons have you guys played so far?Matt: This is actually going to be the Gladiator's 6th season.Sara: Oh, wow.Matt: Yeah, it'll be the 6th season. We did transition into different ownership, which really changed for the marketing to the public. A lot of people do think that this is our 2nd or 3rd. Before myself and Gina. Gina Thomas is the owner. Before we got here, they did have a few seasons under their belt.Sara: But I saw that you guys would be going for your third championship and the 2021 season is that, correct?Matt: Yeah, definitely. We did go back to back in the 18 and 19.Sara: That's really impressive. So what do you think that means for your team? Do you think players are looking to play for you guys or does that make you guys kind of like a name in the indoor arena football league?Matt: You know, it really does. Now, the recruitment side, because I am also in charge of a lot of the recruitment. What it does is winning one championship definitely gets your name out there. To these boys, their whole deal is to come play football, get some good footage and either go to the Canadian League or go to the NFL. And that's one of the things that we really want here. So we did hire a very good media team to get good media footage so they can send it off to the NFL. And, you know, one of the things is I just recruited... My whole defense within the couple months that we've actually been in the off-season. You know, I've got an NFL lineman, you know, from the Baltimore Ravens. I got a cornerback from the Atlanta Falcons, another quarterback from the Detroit Lions. I picked up a safety from Ole Miss College, you know, so the name is out there. These boys have never even heard of Albuquerque. And they're moving here, you know, because of the just the way that culture is. And, you know, obviously when two championships really big for us.Sara: Yes, it's definitely huge. So given the circumstances that are currently going on, what does the season hold for you guys right now or what does the 2021 season look like for you?Matt: Well, we do have tentative dates right now from Tingley Coliseum, and, you know, that's dates that we can actually play inside. They're saying once everything is lifted and we can actually have some sort of a mass gathering together. We are currently planning, as a backup, to play without fans. So, you know, we want to have that in our pocket just in case that does come up. But, you know, at this point, I'm already fielding 40 man roster for camp.Sara: I gotcha. And so is the team practicing right now. Are they are not allowed to do that either?Matt: No, they're not allowed to do any organized practicing right now just because, you know, it's considered off-season. So there is no getting together with coaches and doing anything organized. The boys can get together and work out together and run routes, things like that, but it cannot be organized with coaches.Sara: That's a huge bummer for them that they're missing it. It's their passion.Matt: Yeah. You know, in football. The closer you get to the age of 30, it's slowly going away. So that's what's really a game for young men. You know, on some of these guys, they were on the cusp of 27, 28 years old and they just lost the whole year, you know of playing ball.Sara: Yeah, that is really disappointing, I'm sure, and frustrating for them. You said in the meantime, you guys are doing community events. So what are some of those community events?Matt: Well, at first we started this... There's this organization called the Aging Long-Term Services Department. They called us  and they actually said that they needed help moving boxes. It was really just moving boxes so they can start packing up more boxes and delivering to the elderly because they needed food. And it started off, we see we said, yes, let's do it. You know, one of the things was I did have to let them know, you know, I have the camera crew that actually follows me around right now because we were signing a like a reality show. And when we were in Dallas, the reality show, the camera crews following us around. And once they canceled our game, they said, hey, you need to record this. And now we're going to call it tackling the pandemic. So this camera crew followed us around what we were doing, all of that. And, you know, it just it ended up on TV and on the news. And then we started delivering and buying groceries to a lot of people who couldn't afford it and really just saying yes to anything. Anybody needed help. And after that, it turned out we were feeding called feed the frontlines. And we were feeding frontline individuals, whether it was a call center, the fire department. It could have also been a hospital. We were feeding or 45 meals every day for two months.Sara: Oh, that's amazing. And that must be super rewarding for them. Granted they can't get out on the field right now, but at least they're doing something for the community that they basically play for and represent.Matt: Yeah. And, you know, each and every one of these players had an option to go back home. And once we told them, hey, you know, this season is going to be canceled, we'll help you guys get home. You know, that was something that we all agreed upon the league and said, we'll help you if it's a plane ticket, it could b
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