August 16, 2016
by Terrance Biggs
Each year, regardless of season or locale, thousands of semipro and developmental football players lace up the cleats to play. Most participate for the absolute love of the game. However, there is a contingent that wants to climb the career ladder, hopefully landing in a paying league. They want to secure their financial present and lay groundwork for their prospective future.
The world of semi-pro contains many interesting, if not completely nefarious characters. These people sit at seats of vastly unchecked power, making money on the efforts of supremely talented athletes. Some are able to hold dominion over their respective leagues with a single sentence: Play for us and you will land in the NFL, Canada, or Arena. There are reputable leagues that do not employ this recruitment tactic.
Enter the Rivals Professional Football League into the conversation. In 2012, former New England Patriot Quentin Hines set out to start a league. The first noticeable aspect about the RPFL is the number 256,000 dollars. Upon casual glance of their website, this leaps off the page. Upon closer scrutiny, this number is from a “performance based incentive contract”. As nebulous a term that exists, questions begin to form. Who decides on which incentives are met? Where is all of this money arriving from?
When looking deeper into the RPFL, answers suddenly appear:
Tryouts: The league holds numerous tryouts around the country. The league charges $150 per player to try out. Compared to other leagues, that number seems excruciatingly high. Again, where does the money go?
Teams: As of this writing, there are four teams under the RPFL banner: Oakland County Racers, Pontiac Generals, Detroit Cougars, and Macomb Bearcats. All of these teams currently call Michigan home. Also, how is there nationwide recruiting for only four teams? The official website has these teams already playing a 2017 schedule. We are four months from the end of the 2016.
Game Attendance: Most of the RPFL games are played in high school stadiums that are not filled to capacity.
Interview: There needed to be a player to give a first-hand account of RPFL life. Look no further than DJ Tucker. Tucker, a former standout high school QB/DB from Toledo, Ohio, decided to give the RPFL a go. Here’s his viewpoint:
Q: What was the allure of the RPFL?
Tucker: The thing that attracted me and other players to that league was the fact about getting paid to play football. Its Facebook page contained multiple photos of guys with checks in their hands.
Q: When did things sour?
Tucker: Things soured as soon as we arrived for the first day. We waited over five hours for Quentin to show up. Add in another hour to take our conditioning test, because he was busy trying to receive money off everybody, before we even passed the conditioning test. That seemed a little odd.
Q: Explain the confrontation with you and Quentin Hines?
Tucker: Well, the whole confrontation with him that he didn’t like, and that made him cut me from that league started after the first game. Before that I was having consistent problems with him and his mistreatment. For example, how I had to keep shelling out money for items that didn’t make sense. I shelled out thirty dollars for a plain jersey. I couldn’t pick my own number because the league said we could not. There were only 25 players per team. Then I had to pay 40 dollars for a background check and another 40 dollars for a physical. Worse yet, I never received either one. There was never a doctor or anybody there to perform a physical, and I never received a copy of my background check.
I was not a fan of the accommodations. All of us out-of- town players, about 18 of us, bunked up in a hotel room, sleeping on air mattresses. This was the entire time we were there. Also, we had to pay for everything on our own. The league provided nothing.
On to the confrontation: After the Racers game, ( which is still on YouTube) my girlfriend called me while I was in the locker room and told me that she had to pay for parking and my four-year-old stepdaughter to enter. The league flyer read “$5 entry and kids 5 and under free”. We played at an abandoned school stadium. How are you going to charge to park there? I voiced my opinions to Quentin, and was banned from the league.
Q: Why don’t more athletes speak out?
Tucker: Most of the players feel like no one is listening. If you attempt to comment on the RPFL page or Quentin’s personal Facebook page, he will delete it immediately. I am still friends with many of the players from that team.
Q: Where do you think the money comes from? Or is it there at all?
Tucker: The tryouts seem like the main revenue source. The RPFL charges 150 for each person who wants to come try out, if you register online. For a walkup, the price increases to 210 dollars. Hines also charged individuals twenty dollars to attend the RPFL draft, which was held at a local high school. Throw in the above mentioned costs, and a 75 dollar helmet, and there is the money. Thousands of players try out. They each much pay these fees.
Q: What lesson did that league teach you about false promises?
Tucker: I am no longer trustworthy of most leagues, and I will not let something happen to me like that again. Plus, I will not waste time on something that does not appear worthwhile.
Q: What advice would you give to anyone looking to play at the RPFL?
Tucker: Don’t do it. You will throw your money away, and be separated from family for extended amounts of time. While I love playing football, no sport is worth that headache.
Before the writing of this story, I reached out to league associates. I was given the website address. Players have the right to play wherever they choose. This is how freedom works. They should also be apprised of each league and their reputation.