The Carolina Cobras are preparing for their inaugural season as a member of the National Arena League.
Just don’t call the Greensboro-based indoor football team an expansion franchise.
That’s because its coach, Billy Back, assistant Brian Schmidt and a solid nucleus of the roster are already familiar with one another from having played together on another team. As members of the now-defunct Wichita Falls (Texas) Nighthawks of the Indoor Football League, the group went 12-4 last season.
It’s a success Back expects to continue now that he and his core of key players have relocated to North Carolina to get a fresh start as Cobras.
“It’s kind of like a family atmosphere,” said Back, a former indoor player himself who has won three league championships during his six-year coaching career. “Those guys trust me and know I’m going to take care of them and put them in a good situation. From that point we have guys that mesh with what we’re trying to put together on the field, so the chemistry is always good.”
Greensboro was introduced as a new member of the six-team NAL in December and will play its first game on April 7 against the defending league champion Jacksonville Sharks. The other league teams are the Columbus (Ga.) Lions, Lehigh Valley (Pa.) Steelhawks, Massachusetts Pirates and Maine Mammoths.
The Cobras are owned by National Sports Ventures, a group headed by Atlanta businessman Richard Maslia.
According to team president Brian Cassidy, Greensboro was chosen because of its central location, a large fan base from which to draw, a modern 23,000-seat coliseum and a history of previous minor league sports franchises.
Like Back and his players, led by two-time IFL MVP quarterback Charles McCallum, Greensboro and indoor football are no strangers to one another.
Two other teams have called the Gate City home — the Greensboro Prowlers of Arenafootball 2 from 2000-03 and the Greensboro Revolution of the National Indoor Football League from 2000-06.
The name Cobras is also familiar, having already been used by the old Arena League franchise that played in Raleigh and Charlotte from 2000-04.
“Greensboro is just a big-time sports town and it’s time to bring arena football back after 12 years,” Cassidy said. “A lot of people are jumping on board and want to be involved with the Cobras, because they know it’s a new, fun and exciting thing that’s coming to the coliseum.”
Cassidy said he’s confident that the NAL in general and Cobras in particular will succeed where other leagues and franchises have failed because of the professionalism of those making the decisions.
It also doesn’t hurt that the commissioner of the league, Chris Siegfried, is a former arena football player and coach who understands both the game and how it should be marketed.
Cassidy said that just as much attention is being paid to the Cobras’ game night presentation as the team’s on-the-field product and promised that the atmosphere inside Greensboro Coliseum will be “kind of a football-game, hockey-game, rock-and-roll concert all rolled into one with a fan-friendly entertainment aspect to it.”
Among the features already in the works are meet-and-greets with the players on the field after every home game.
“Ownership is doing this the right way,” Back said. “They’re not coming in and spray painting things. We’re getting all new things. It’s going to be our field, our look, our atmosphere.”
As for those players, the veteran coach can’t wait to get started once training camp opens on March 17 at Proehlific Park, the training facility run by former Carolina Panthers’ wide receiver Ricky Proehl. Thirty-five players are expected to compete for the 25 roster spots.
In addition to McCallum, who threw for 2,959 yards and 56 touchdowns last season while leading an offense that averaged a league-leading 62.6 points per game, the other former Wichita Falls players are wide receiver Jordan Jolly, defensive back Michael Green and massive offensive/defensive linemen Jordan Mosley and Walter Thomas, a 6-foot-5, 340-pound veteran who spent some time with the New Orleans Saints.
“This is going to be a team with probably the best quarterback in the league, the best nose guard and three of the best receivers in the league,” Back said. “We’re going to be pretty good on the field when it comes to talent. Now all we have to do is put it together on game day.”
More information about the team can be found on its official website, Carcobras.com.