The Lincoln Haymakers may be a new team, but there are some familiar names on the roster for the first-year indoor football squad.
Former Nebraska players Cortney Grixby and Antonio Bell, both defensive backs, are on the roster, but Marlon Lucky is the headliner for the Haymakers.
Lucky came out of high school as the second-rated running back in the nation by Rivals.com. He played for the Huskers from 2005 to 2008, and in that span he rushed for 2,393 yards with 22 touchdowns. He also caught 135 passes for 1,379 yards and four touchdowns.
The Haymakers will be in Grand Island for a 7 p.m. non-conference game against the Nebraska Danger Saturday at the Heartland Events Center. It will be the first game ever for the Haymaker franchise as well as the season opener for the Danger.
Lincoln has seven players on its roster with ties to the University of Nebraska. Defensive backs Andre Jones and Donald DeFrand also played at Nebraska along with offensive lineman Jordan Picou. Running back Dante Perry also has ties to the program.
The Danger have had a small number of former Huskers play for the team, including running backs Kenny Wilson and Tierre Green and kicker Dale Endorf.
Wide receiver Frantz Hardy signed with the Danger but never played.
Danger general manager Mike McCoy said it just makes sense for former Huskers to play for the Lincoln team.
“We’ve talked to a lot of those guys,” McCoy said. “A lot of them live in Lincoln. Their families are in Lincoln. They got jobs in Lincoln after they graduated. For them to come and drive over here to practice every day just didn’t really make a lot of sense. It just made a lot of sense for them to stay in Lincoln and play.”
Lincoln head coach Dave Brumagen was an assistant for the Danger the past two years.
“I know some of their players and some of their coaches,” Danger coach Mike Davis said. “So I know about what to expect, but at the end of the day, players have to play and make plays.”
Davis said the Danger want beat the Haymakers, but it’s a non-conference game. The main focus for him is getting ready for the IFL opener against league champion Sioux Falls on March 2 at the Heartland Events Center.
“We’re worried about Sioux Falls,” Davis said. “If we prepare for Sioux Falls, then we should be able to take care of Lincoln. We have to focus on Sioux Falls and let the chips fall where they may.”
The Danger had three practices earlier this week, but Davis canceled Thursday’s practice because of the winter storm that hit the area. The team practiced once again on Friday afternoon.
Davis has liked what he’s seen from his squad.
“It’s been a pleasant surprise,” Davis said. “Guys kind of came together and jelled pretty quick. Practices have been good. They’ve been really intense.”
That may be because the players are battling for jobs with the Danger. Over 30 players will suit up for Saturday’s game but Davis and his staff must cut that number down immediately.
“My main concern is to evaluate players because we have to cut down to 25 on Sunday,” Davis said. “Personnel decisions this year are going to be really tough.”
Saturday’s game will give players one last chance to show the Danger coaching staff what they can do.
“Guys are going to lose their jobs after the game on Saturday,” McCoy said. “They’re all playing for their jobs, so these guys need to do well to stay on the team.”
The Haymakers have one local player on their roster. Kevin Roehrich, a former Northwest High School player, is an offensive lineman for the Haymakers.
Roehrich completed his college career this past fall at Doane College where he was a second-team All-GPAC selection on the offensive line.