Las Vegas Sun

April 16, 2014

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LOCOMOTIVES:

Defensive unit includes several with NFL experience

If You Go

  • What: Las Vegas Locomotives vs. California Redwoods
  • When: 6 p.m. Thursday
  • Where: Sam Boyd Stadium
  • Tickets: $7-$42; unlvtickets.com

Tony Parrish signed to play in the United Football League under one condition: He wanted to be assigned to the Las Vegas franchise.

Parrish, a 33-year old NFL veteran safety, had a simple reason for the request.

“I was looking for some familiarity,” Parrish said. “Las Vegas definitely had that for me.”

It started with head coach Jim Fassel and defensive coordinator Larry Mac Duff. Parrish played for the San Francisco 49ers while Mac Duff served as an assistant. And Parrish always respected Fassel for his stint as coach of the New York Giants.

But the Locomotives’ defensive roster was equally as impressive to Parrish. It’s not hard to see why. The Las Vegas defense features eight former NFL players.

“This is not the NFL,” Fassel said. “But a lot of these guys aren’t far off.”

Included in the group of NFL veterans on the Locomotives are players who weren’t merely role players, but standouts.

As a 49er, Parrish led the NFL in interceptions in 2003 with nine and received mention on All-Pro teams. Las Vegas linebacker Gary Stills, 35, made the Pro Bowl the same season as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs.

But no acceptable offers were extended when Parrish and Stills’ most recent NFL contracts expired in 2007 and 2008, respectively. That’s what drove them to the UFL.

“I got to a point where I needed to get out there. I needed to play,” Parrish said. “The UFL was a perfect opportunity. I believe the quality of football is going to be much higher than people expect.”

Although Las Vegas has only practiced together for three weeks, Parrish said he could already tell how dangerous the defense would be. That much is apparent simply by watching the linebackers.

Oklahoma alums Teddy Lehman and Brandon Moore will start alongside Stills. Lehman was an All-American in college and the Detroit Lions made him a second round choice in 2004. Moore was the 49ers’ leading tackler in 2007.

Combined, the three linebackers have played in more than 250 NFL games. Fassel credited the linebacker corps as a main reason why he is so optimistic for the season.

“At the professional level, there’s really nothing that replaces experience,” Fassel said. “These guys know how to play the game and the tricks. They know the nuances.”

Former NFL players on the defensive line include six-year veteran Ross Kolodziej and Manuel Wright, who was part of the New York Giants 2007 Super Bowl champion team.

Fassel said Parrish has stepped up as the leader of the defense. Parrish is excited to help the defense shape its identity once the Locomotives open the season Oct. 8 against the California Redwoods at Sam Boyd Stadium.

But Parrish will miss the NFL. Someday, he hopes to get back.

“That’s definitely the ultimate goal,” Parrish said. “But to get there, it’s all about what’s in front of me. Right now, I’m happy to be on the field playing football and I can’t wait to get this thing started very shortly.”

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