Football fans in the Huntsville area may have attended a Vipers game in the past; perhaps when they were called the Tennessee Valley Vipers, or when they played in the Arena Football Developmental League, the AF2.
The team, now known as the Alabama Vipers, was moved up to the AFL this year, or as the team puts it, “Moving up to big-time football!”
The Vipers played very well to start the season, but have been through a mini-slump during the middle of the year, and currently stand at 5-4.
The next few games will prove critical to keep their playoff dreams alive. The next home game is slated for Friday, June 11, and it is full of reasons to attend.
In just one year, the Vipers have gone from playing in the AF2, to having a nationally televised game on NFL Network. The network chooses one AFL game a week to air live to the country.
The Vipers were given this honor after an impressive victory against the Battle Wings earlier this year. Alabama is also scheduled to play the Tampa Bay Storm, one of the founding members of the AFL, and a team that has won five championships in its history.
Fans will also be able to attend the “Viperville” pre-game party outside the Von Braun Center South Hall at 5 PM. Admission is absolutely free with $2 drinks and hot dogs for a buck.
Vipers VIP packages will also be available, starting from $10. The VIP package includes a game ticket, two drinks, a hot dog, and more.
Linemen Eric Scott and Raymond Norell agreed to be interviewed before a practice last week to help the public get to know the team a bit better, and to encourage fans to come out and enjoy the game. I first asked Eric a few questions.
What is the biggest difference between the AFL and the outdoor game?
“It’s faster paced, more exciting. You get a lot more big hits with the walls. It’s just the attitude of the game. You have to have faster reactions.”
What is your favorite moment as an AFL player?
“The Championship. The team was special; we were really more like brothers than teammates. We all had a special bond.”
When the Vipers scored a touchdown in overtime, what were the team’s thoughts about going for the two-point conversion to win the game rather than tie?
“Coach asked the team, ‘Do you guys want to go for the win or the tie?’ We all wanted to go for it. That is just the way we had played that whole year. Also, if we had just tied the game, it would have gone to sudden-death, so going for the win made sense.”
What do you plan to do after the AFL?
“Right now, I work with D1 Sports Training. I would like to be a college or high-school coach. I really enjoy working with kids.
Is there anything you would like to say to the fans?
“We need your support out there, the more fans we can get the better. It is a lot more intimidating for the other team with all the noise and fans yelling.”
Raymond Norell, who goes by the nickname “Ray,” joined me just afterwards for a few questions.
Do you have anything specific you do before a game, anything like a pre-game ritual?
“I have a playlist that I will listen to. I will go through situations in my mind. During the National Anthem, I will say a prayer, and take a knee for both of my grandfathers. It is all about staying focused and not getting distracted.”
What is the biggest difference to you between the AFL and the outdoor game?
“The field is smaller so you have a lot more action; the strategy of the game changes. The game is more physical, you are hitting on every play. It is really about controlled insanity, being able to stay focused and then letting it go at the right time.”
What is your favorite moment so far in the AFL?
“So far, my second home start and blowing out Shreveport. That game was a lot of fun, everyone was smiling and everything was clicking. Every day is fun. When it starts to not be fun anymore, it is time to hang them up.”
Do you have anything to say to the fans?
“We put on a great show here, it is exciting and the whole family can enjoy it. The game will be on live television, and having home field advantage is huge. Seeing and hearing all the fans really gets us pumped up.”
Tickets are on sale for the June 11 game, starting at just $9. Remember the Vipers VIP package that will get you a ticket, two drinks, a hot dog, and more goodies.
Tickets can be purchased by calling 256-428-HISS, visiting www.alabamavipers.com, or at the box office the day of the game.
Be sure to come out this weekend to support the Vipers and cheer them on to a victory on national television!