Sacramento Mountain Lions find a home

AJ Taylor

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After the fireworks had all been fired and the smoke had cleared, the 20,000 fans packing Hornet Stadium began screaming cheers of welcome to their new professional football team – the United Football League’s Sacramento Mountain Lions.

The welcoming ceremony came full circle during the offensive introductions when wide receiver and graduate of Sacramento State Otis Amey was introduced in front of his home town fans to cheers and screams.

“It was great to do the offensive introductions and everybody going crazy, everybody saying “Welcome back! Welcome home!’,” Amey said.

Amey wasn’t the only Mountain Lion to receive more than his fair share of cheers. Two-time NFL Pro Bowler Daunte Culpepper was introduced as the Mountain Lions quarterback excited cheers as well.

“Since the day I landed here, every supermarket, every gas station, people were like “Man I’m going to be at the game!’ Everywhere I go, people talk about the Mountain Lions here in Sacramento,” Culpepper said. “They love football here and I could tell they really want some pro football here, so I’m glad we’re here and they came out to support us.”

Ishmael Thrower, 28, is a Sacramento native who watched the game from the stands and said his favorite player is Amey.

“That’s my boy. I go to church with him. I know him personally,” Thrower said.

Amey has been living in Sacramento since 2000 when he first started attending Sac State.

“I still couldn’t believe that I live five minutes from the stadium and I can just drive to where I’m playing; it’s a blessing,” Amey said. “Even though we weren’t that successful in my time here, I just loved playing football. The camaraderie was good playing in all those Causeway Classic games. I loved it.”

Such a fond memory of his college days caused Amey to bring along a bit more emotion in his homecoming to Hornet Stadium.

“I was hyped. I could barely sleep last night. I got here early so I could collect my thoughts,” Amey said. “They said it wouldn’t look right when I got here. It really reminded me of the Causeway Classic.”

As one Sacramento resident put on his pads and prepared for the game, thousands more filed into the stadium, filling the seats – some of them to support their new favorite team and some to show pride in their city.

Sacramento native, Andrew Covack said he was surprised how many fans showed up for the Mountain Lions’ debut.

“I wanted to come out tonight so that we could show support for the team, but it looks like a lot of people did actually show up,” Covack said. “I really only know Daunte because he played in the NFL.”

Covack sat among the highest rows of bleachers, watching the game with his father, Tracy Covack.

A contrasting type of fan was also watching the game that Saturday night. Actor, Denzel Washington stood on the sideline in support of his son, running back John David Washington. Denzel Washington was not available for comment.

With the stands filled with the loyal people of Sacramento, the Mountain Lions made sure they took care of business that Saturday night.

“Having a packed house like this, first game, its phenomenal. It makes us want to go out and just get the job done even more,” Culpepper said. “It’s great. The atmosphere was very exciting and I hope we can just keep it going all year because it’s wonderful.”

The Mountain Lions picked up their first win of the season against the Florida Tuskers in its home opener. Coming into the fourth quarter, Sacramento trailed the Tuskers 17-7. But Culpepper and the Mountain Lions drove down the field twice, once in the final three minutes of the game to score the go-ahead touchdown for the 24-20 win.

Sacramento hosts the Las Vegas Locomotives on Oct. 15th at 8 p.m. The Mountain Lions will play on the road against the Omaha Nighthawks on Oct. 2 before the team travels back to Hornet Stadium.

AJ Taylor can be reached at ataylor@statehornet.com

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