The Utah Argonauts kick off their inaugural season in the brand new Professional Developmental Football League May 11th.
"We've got a good mix of football players all the way from guys who have played minor league ball, guys coming out of high school, all the way to guys who were second round draft picks in the NFL," said head coach J.J. Fayed.
Defensive backs Jacoby Shepherd and Justin Phinisee were both drafted by NFL teams, and while it is a long shot they will get back to that level, they relish the opportunity to keep playing.
"At this level of football, you got to love the game to play in this," Phinisee, a former University of Oregon star said. "Even at the NFL level, it's not about the money after a while. That's one reason why I'm out here is that I have a passion for the game like no other."
Former Utah State and Utah Blaze quarterback Mike Affleck knows his best days are most likely behind him, but he likes helping the younger players on the team try to achieve their dreams.
"I'm 28, so this is kind of my last chance," Affleck said. "I'm one of the older guys, but a lot of the younger guys do have chance to go on and play some CFL or possibly NFL."
There are several local players on the Argonauts, including former Utes Darrell Mack, Nai Fotu and former Judge Memorial High star Lewis Walker, who will get to play home games on his old high school field.
"It's fun to come out here and work with guys like Jacoby Shepherd and Justin Phinisee," Walker said. "They're guys who have been in the NFL before, so I'm fortunate to learn something from them and work with them."
It is not cheap to run a football team at any level. The Argonauts have a $40,000 salary cap and will travel to places like Seattle, Portland, Denver and Boise. Team CEO James Russon says the goal of the PDFL is to become a minor league for the NFL, just like the D-League is to the NBA.
"These players come here and get developed and get trained," Russon said. "Then, they can get scouted by NFL clubs or the Canadian League and get picked up. The goal eventually for the PDFL is to have 32 teams just like the NFL. So, during the spring time, players can come and get developed, then after the season is over in August, go to NFL training camps."
"They've talked about the NFL endorsing this league starting next year," said former University of Utah kicker Joe Phillips. "It just depends how everything goes with the league this year."
The Argonauts are scheduled to play eight games this season, four at Judge Memorial.
"If we can get this established here, it will be a sweet deal," said Affleck. "Especially with Utah being such a football state."