April 6, 2007
Former Players Chris Griesen and Dave Tollefson Involved in Pro Playing Careers
Courtesy of Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Seven former MIAA football players representing four schools are on active rosters in the 2007 Arena Football League season, which kicked off the first weekend in March.
Pittsburg State leads the way with three former Gorillas in the loop, while Central Missouri has two former Mules playing during the indoor football league's 21st season. Northwest Missouri State and Missouri Western each have one former player in the AFL.
Sean McNamara is in his seventh season in the league as a lineman, his sixth with the Los Angeles Avengers. He's listed as the team's starting center and third-string defensive end.
He was an Associated Press Little All-America selection as a senior with Pitt State in 1997. McNamara also was in the remake of "The Longest Yard" as the center for the Mean Machine.
Gary Kral is in his fifth AFL campaign, the third with the Arizona Rattlers. He was 5-of-7 on point-after kicks and 1-of-2 on two-point conversion passes in the Rattlers' 62-61 overtime loss at Kansas City last March 30.
Kral kicked three seasons (1998-2000) for the Gorillas, and has also kicked for the Buffalo Destroyers (2003) and New York Dragons (2004) in the AFL.
Aaron McConnell, a three-time All-America selection (2001-03) as a defensive lineman for PSU, is in his third season as a lineman with the Nashville Kats. He's starting at nose guard for the Kats, and had two pass breakups in last week's 55-48 loss at Colorado after sitting out the previous week's game.
McConnell was an AFL All-Rookie selection in 2005, after being released in training camp by the Tennessee Titans in 2004.
Colston Weatherington is in his fourth season as a lineman with the Dallas Desperados, after being a seventh-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys (both Dallas teams are owned by Jerry Jones) in the 2001 National Football League Draft.
An All-Rookie Team member in 2004, the former Mules football and basketball player was named AFL Lineman of the Year in 2006 and a first-team all-league selection. He also played a season with the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe.
Kevin Nickerson, who was a teammate of Weatherington at UCM, joined McConnell on the All-Rookie Team in 2005. He's in his third season with the Austin Wranglers playing wide receiver and defensive back.
Through five games this season, Nickerson is second on the team in receptions (34) and receiving yards (411).
Former Northwest Missouri State QB Chris Griesen is in his first season as a starter with the Georgia Force after playing two seasons with Weatherington in Dallas as a backup. He's the circuit's No. 3 passer through five weeks (129.3 passer rating), and can be seen on ESPN Monday night (April 9) when the Force travels to face the Philadelphia Soul.
Greisen was a seventh-round choice of Arizona in the 1999 NFL Draft, and played three seasons for the Cardinals and one more in NFL Europe with the Rhein Fire before learning the Arena game with AF2's Green Bay Blizzard in 2004.
Missouri Western's Clay Rush is the most experienced of the MIAA AFLers, playing in his ninth season and first with the Kansas City Brigade. His odyssey started out with two seasons playing for the Iowa Barnstormers, and he followed the team when it moved and became the New York Dragons in 2001.
He was the 2003 AFL Kicker of the Year in the first of his two seasons with the now-defunct Indiana Firebirds, before moving on to play two seasons with the Colorado Crush, including their Arena Bowl championship season of 2005 when he booted the title-winning field goal as time expired. Rush also has one of four successful field goals of 60 yards or more in AFL history (62 yards -- second-longest).
Arena football is not the only football being played this spring which has MIAA players involved. Former Northwest DL Dave Tollefson will be playing with the Berlin Thunder in the newly-renamed NFL Europa.
A seventh-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in the 2006 NFL Draft, Tollefson was on the Pack's practice squad before being signed by the Oakland Raiders this off season and assigned to NFL Europa. He originally was to play for the Frankfurt Galaxy, but was recently reassigned to Berlin.
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