Sacramento Mountain Lions schedule four open tryouts

AJ Taylor

The Sacramento Mountain Lions will hold open player tryouts in May, as they continue to work on filling out their roster for the 2011 UFL season.

In 2010, the Mountain Lions were just one win away from the championship game. The team was tied for the best second-half record in the UFL, and its roster juxtaposed an ex-NFL star with multiple walk-on players.

Former NFL pro-bowler Daunte Culpepper was the hallmark of the Mountain Lions’ roster, but all through 2010 Culpepper took the field playing alongside and behind multiple players who took a much different route to professional football.

Players such as Mike Tauiliili, Josh Leonard, Zeke Moreno and Aaron Woods were featured on the Mountain Lions 2010 roster thanks to their participation in an open tryout. This season the Mountain Lions are proud to once again offer that opportunity to the California community.

There will be four tryouts: The first will be May 7 at San Diego High School’s Balboa Stadium, with another on May 14 at Foothill High School in Sacramento. The Mountain Lions make another stop on May 15 at Natomas High School in Sacramento and May 22 at San Mateo Community College in San Mateo.

The participation fee for each tryout is $60 and all tryouts will be from 9 a.m. to noon. The tryouts are for all positions, including kickers and punters. Participants will be timed in the 40-yard dash, and will participate in a series of individual and team drills.

Interested players can register online at the UFL website. Registration began on March 25 and continues until the day of tryouts, where players can sign up in person from 7:30 to 8:45 a.m. on the day of each tryout.

Head coach Dennis Green and his staff will evaluate players individually at each tryout. Green said the Mountain Lions tried to reach all areas in California.

“The talent level we had in all three tryouts last year was impressive,” Green said. “A lot of the guys had played college football and had success there and some were former NFL players. And we invited 41 players from those tryouts to our training camp.”

Two walk-on Mountain Lions, Moreno and Tauiliili, finished the 2010 season second and third in tackles, respectively. Moreno, who had 43 tackles, spent time in the NFL and CFL before coming to the UFL in 2010.

Moreno has nine years of professional football experience, most of it with the CFL. It was his first professional open tryout, but he said that he felt comfortable with the way he was treated.

“You’ve got to have a passion for this, you’ve got to enjoy it,” Moreno said. “If you don’t enjoy it then you’re in the wrong place.”

Tauiliili, who had 40 tackles in 2010, went to an open tryout offered by every team in the UFL. The Duke graduate and two time All-American traveled all across the nation trying out.

Now the Mountain Lions have Tauiliili to thank for 40 tackles, half a sack and two pass defenses. Tauiliili said he thanks the UFL for the opportunity to play the game he loves.

“I quarreled with the thought of hanging up the cleats,” Tauiliili said. “But going into those tryouts I wanted to go in and just lay it out on the line, just give them everything I had and let it work the way it was going to work. If they wanted me they wanted me, if they didn’t they didn’t. Either way I knew that I had given myself an opportunity to show what I had.”

The only Mountain Lion with more tackles than these two was Andrew Sandejo. Sandejo did not finish the UFL season with the team because he had joined the Dallas Cowboys.

Green said he and his staff offer a fair tryout for the hopeful Mountain Lions. Green and his coaching staff are on the look out for enthusiastic and skilled players.

“I think we will get a good turnout, it’s the same opportunity,” Green said. “We are looking for guys who feel they can play, and they know that we have some exciting football in our league and they want to be a part of it.”

Tauiliili is returning to the Mountain Lions for the 2011 season as a protected player. He said knowing where he is headed for the 2011 season has given him peace of mind. Had he hung up his cleats early, Tauiliili would never have been in this position.

“It means a tremendous opportunity for me to be able to display my talent on a professional level,” Tauiliili said. “Last year all of our games were televised and it’s right here in the United States where, opposed to the CFL, coaches’ access might not be as much. Here I’m able to play in front of my family. I can play in front of NFL coaches and scouts. It’s a big opportunity.”

You can reach AJ Taylor at [email protected]