By Jesse Wood
The High Country Grizzlies are ready to come out of hibernation and endear themselves to the community in the Boone area and beyond, team officials said at a Thursday press conference at McKethan Brothers BBQ.
The High Country Grizzlies are the newest franchise of the American Indoor Football League. The season runs from March through April, and home games will be played in the Holmes Convocation Center on the campus of Appalachian State University. In addition to the potential economic impact the league will have in the region during a slow period for tourism, team officials say they want to make a positive difference in the community by molding young men and women both directly and indirectly
“We want to create a franchise that is a part of the fabric of the community,” said Grizzlies majority owner and successful entrepreneur Donald Thompson. “That’s part of what got me very interested. In the technology field, I’ve always located our businesses in areas where we can have a very close interaction with students and young people who are chasing their dreams.”
Thompson said that he was reluctant to get involved because for one, he was already so busy with his current endeavors. But current Grizzlies General Manager William Thompson (no relation) talked Donald into meeting with legendary Head Coach Jerry Moore, and his tune slowly changed.
“I remember sitting in Applebee’s with Coach Moore and listening to him talk about all the young men he helped throughout his career – not the championships, not the accolades but all of the people that he helped,” Donald said. “And I said if there is a little bit we can do to inspire young people, bring a phenomenal entertainment brand and partner with the university to use students as interns and become a fabric of the community, then I wanted to be apart of it.”
Coach Moore was brought on as a football consultant. Moore said that he also was hesitant to become involved. That was because he said he knew nothing about indoor football. But he and his wife, Margaret, watched a live arena game with the general manager and his family in Winston-Salem before coming on board.
“It’s a privilege to be asked to be apart of this,” Moore said.
Co-owner Bryan Bouboulis, who played under Coach Sparky Woods for one year before finishing his career as an outside linebacker under Moore in the early ’90s, is currently a full-time lecturer in the Walker College of Business.
Bouboulis talked about the positive influences that this organization will have not only on the community but also on his own three boys.“I am just blessed that God brought me an opportunity to get my children around men of such vision as Don [Thompson], such passion as William [Thompson] and such faith as Coach Moore. That they have mentors they can look up to,” Bouboulis said.
The atmosphere at the press conference was electric, and as both Donald Thompson and Bouboulis said, General Manager William Thompson exudes passion for this new football team.
“The hibernation ends March 2017,” Thompson said, regarding the inaugural season of the High Country Grizzlies.
While the Grizzlies officials say the end goal is to sellout the 6,100-capacity for indoor football games at the Holmes Convocation Center, the majority owner, Donald, said that 2,000 sold tickets would ensure profitability.
Auditions for the High Country Grizzlies will begin in the fall. More than 300 football players are expected to tryout. The team will hold 21 players on its travel squad and 30 players on its home roster – with up to 35 players on the training camp roster.
The AIF has 19 teams competing in the 2016 season, split into the Southern and Northern divisions.
Southern Division teams include Albany, Ga., Atlanta, Ga., Columbus, Ga., Corpus Christi, Tx., Estero, Fl., Lakeland, Fl., Myrtle Beach, S.C., Pueblo, Co., Rio Rancho, N.M., and Savannah, Ga.
Northern Division teams include Allentown, Pa., Chicago, Il., Harrisburg, Pa., Highland Heights, Ky., Muskegon, Mi., Philadelphia, Pa., Raleigh, N.C., St. Charles, Mo., and Winston-Salem, N.C.
The High Country Grizzlies website and Facebook page.
For more information on the AIF, go to www.aifprofootball.com.
See previous articles about the High Country Grizzlies:
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