Tryout Success
By Cassie Kickert

The nearly 60 players came from all walks of life and all experience levels – from on-the-verge pros to longtime dreamers. But any way you look at it, the St. Paul Pioneers’ first tryout for the 2012 season – held Jan. 8 at the Bethel University Sports and Recreation Center – was a rousing and exciting success.

Near the top of the list for the Pioneers’ hopes for a third straight Northern Elite Football League title was a running back who has been a two-time NCAA Division II All-America and a Division II National Champion – not to mention a San Diego Charger for a couple months last summer. Issac Odim, a former star running back for the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs signed a Letter of Intent to play for the Pioneers in 2012.

For the Pioneers, who have won six championships in their first 10 seasons, including the 2009 NAFL National Championship, the appearance of Odim and all the other high quality football players provides high hopes for this season as well.

“How hard we work determines how far we will go,” said Asst. Head Coach/Defensive Line Coach Jim Walsh.

It was a day of agility testing and players testing themselves against each other. Enthusiasm and energy were running at a high level.

One returner from last season is receiver Darius Meyers. Meyers has played high school and college football as well. He loves the game and said playing clears his head. Possibly getting noticed by a higher league, Meyers said, is another reason he plays.

In addition to playing for the Pioneers, Meyers has three jobs at Saji-Ya, Outback Steakhouse and Lifetime Fitness.

Odim is just one of a number of blue-chip Pioneers with high level college experience. Players such as Jeff McGaster, last year’s NEFL Defensive Player of the Year for the Western Conference and a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, and Nate Beulah, a former team defensive MVP and Pioneer Award winner who starred at Northern State University, brought high-level skills and big school pedigree to the tryout.

But Odim’s appearance has Offensive Coordinator Rob Neumann drooling over the run game possibilities. Odim finished his Bulldog career as UMD’s all-time leading rusher, with 4,245 yards and 72 rushing touchdowns in just 2 ½ seasons. .

The Pioneers next tryout is February 19 from 2-4 pm at Bethel University.

Board Member George Hall, Foster, Ubani and Coach Peter Globa look on during the tryout
Photo: Becky Allen

TE Joe Ubani and new Pioneers WR Marcus Foster talk during practice
Photo: Becky Allen

RB Isaac Odim warming up
Photo: Becky Allen