On a recent spring night, an old gym on Mt. Airy’s New Covenant Campus is packed with young men reaching for football fame.
Some stretch on the hardwood. Others sprint up and down it, their squeaking shoes filling the small basketball court along the way.
It’s the start of practice for the Mt. Airy Monarchs, a new semi-pro indoor football team formed through partnership between the Philadelphia Soul and the Indoor Gridiron League (IGL).
Many of the players have been already been around the indoor football circuit. Some have tried out for a roster spots with the Philadelphia Soul or other teams part of the IGL.
Moses Gilmore, defensive end and tight end, played for the North Philly Cowboys and Philadelphia Pride before trying out for the Monarchs.
“It’s a once and a lifetime opportunity,” said Gilmore. “There’s a chance to take your skills to the next level, maybe playing for the Philadelphia Soul.”
For other players, the chance to compete at the next level of indoor football was also a big draw for joining up with the Monarchs.
Monarchs head coach Mike Greene – viewed by players as the heart and soul of the team – was another.
“I met Coach Greene at IGL tryouts. He seemed like a real genuine dude and it seemed like an opportunity to do what I love to do and that’s play football,” said Amadeus Hall, a Monarch’s linebacker.
It’s also Hall’s hopes to play for the Soul, who recently won an Arena Football League championship.
Greene has high hopes for his players as well, but is also interested in using the team as an avenue for nurturing the love of the sport, molding local athletes into neighborhood leaders and creating community collaborations.
“I want these guys to be known in this area,” said Greene as he kept an eye on his as they practiced crossing patterns. “I want them to take them to schools. I want to put a product out where families can come to a game and relate to the players as local heroes.”
“This is definitely more than football. I love this neighborhood,” he said.
Greene’s intentions resonated with Clifton Jones, director of operations at the New Covenant Campus. Touched by his passion for the team and his greater mission, he was happy to work with Greene to arrange the practice space.
“Even while he was talking to me his eyes almost came to tears and it was something that was genuine,” said Jones. “His dream for these young men and how he wanted to positively affect their lives, my spirit leapt. I felt like we needed to be a part of this.”
The Mt. Airy Monarchs will face off against the Philadelphia Hornets this coming weekend. They’ll head into that matchup with a 2-0 record the first three weeks of the season.