Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Blaze Receivers Catching On In The NFL

Over the past two seasons, no one in the Arena Football League has thrown the football better than the Utah Blaze. That probably explains why Blaze receivers have become such a hot import commodity for NFL teams in recent seasons. One former Blaze wideout took the next step in his NFL career this past Sunday, while a current Blaze pass catcher earned an opportunity he hopes will lead to success on football's biggest stage.
Wide receiver Michael Preston joined the Blaze as a rookie in 2011 and burst onto the scene with 28 receptions for 332 yards and five touchdowns during the final three games of the season. His performance garnered attention from the Tennessee Titans, who elected to sign him to a contract shortly thereafter.
Up until this past weekend, Preston had spent all of the previous two seasons on Tennessee's practice squad. But all that changed last Friday, when Preston learned he would be suiting up for the Titans as a member of the active roster when the team took on the Indianapolis Colts.
"When I found out, I was excited," Preston explained. "It wasn't a nervous feeling, more of just being anxious. I spent the whole week preparing because you never know when you might get called up."
Although most players would expect to only see action on special teams in their first NFL performance, Preston earned playing time on offense in his inaugural game. In the second quarter, the former Blaze wideout hauled in an 11-yard pass from QB Jake Locker that was good for a first down, setting up a successful field goal by K Rob Bironas (ironically, another former AFL player). The field goal gave the Titans a 20-7 lead at halftime.
"I had been taking reps on offense, so I was prepared to go in. I know a lot of the [receiver] positions. I would like to work towards increasing my role on offense and special teams and help the team any way that I can. I just want to build off this first game, be consistent, and move on to the next one."
Days later, rookie LaMark Brown became the latest member of the Blaze receiving corps to earn an opportunity at the next level. Brown was signed to the practice squad of the Minnesota Vikings this Monday following a standout performance during a tryout with the team. "I was excited," Brown stated. "I've been waiting for another opportunity. When you get a chance, you just try to help the organization become better every day."
Brown is hoping to follow a similar path as Preston by becoming the next Blaze receiver to achieve NFL success. "You have another way to continue playing the game and you can't give up on your dreams. It's important because you never know when you're going to get that call. Once the opportunity presents itself, then the sky's the limit."
In his first week with the Vikings, LaMark Brown will practice with the team as it prepares to take on the St. Louis Rams this Sunday. Meanwhile, fans can catch Preston live on national television next week as the Titans battle the New York Jets on Monday Night Football.

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