Rock River Raptors open training camp at midnight, March 10

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-114184799811840.jpg’, ”, ”);

According to Rock River Raptors head coach Rik Richards, “Hockey’s great, but it’s time to play some football!”

The Raptors officially open their training camp at 12:01 a.m., Friday, March 10. Fans are invited to go to the open practice at the Indoor Sports Center on Riverside Boulevard Thursday night, March 9. Everyone can watch the team work out for the first time, as they prepare for their inaugural season in the United Indoor Football League (UIFL).

League rules state the teams may not begin training camp until Friday, March 10. Richards plans to have his team on the practice field ready to go at the stroke of midnight. The team will practice for a little more than two hours. This will be the first opportunity for fans to see the new team in full pads.

Forty-five players will be in camp competing for a shot at the 21-man active roster. The team is also allowed four players on the taxi squad and another five can be named to the practice squad.

Many of the men trying out for the Raptors have played Division I college football; some have been to NFL camps. One of those players is projected starting quarterback Ben Sankey. He had an outstanding collegiate career at Wake Forest University. After being named the most outstanding player in the 1999 Aloha Bowl, Sankey signed as a free agent with the Green Bay Packers in 2000. He stayed with Green Bay throughout the pre-season before being released. In 2001, he led the Calgary Stampede to the Grey Cup Championship, Canada’s equivalent to the NFL’s Super Bowl. The Houston Texans signed him to a free agent contract in 2002. He was released following the pre-season schedule, and went back to Canada to play two more seasons. In 2003, he was a member of the Montreal Alouettes and, in 2004, he played for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He spent last year playing for the Tennessee Valley Raptors of the UIFL. Sankey is 28 years old and is listed at 6 foot 2 inches, 215 pounds.

In case you aren’t able to stay up that late on Thursday evening, you can catch the team on opening night, Saturday, April 1, at a more reasonable hour—game time is 7:30 p.m.

Doug Halberstadt is a local resident and is track announcer at Rockford Speedway. He can be reached via e-mail at

From the March 8-14, 2006, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!