In professional basketball, if you don’t make it to the NBA, there are options like the D-League, or overseas teams, that keep you on NBA scouts radar. The NFL doesn’t have an official minor league system like the NBA does with the D-League, but athletes can head to Canada and play in the CFL, or get into arena football in the U.S.
The city of Los Angeles welcomed a new team this year co-owned by two members of the 70’s Rock legendary band, Kiss; Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. The team ended their first season with a 3-13 record, but were second in the league for attendance, averaging over 10,000 fans per game. The roster saw high turnover due to injury. 70 players shuffled through the 21-man roster.
Romeo Pellum is a DB who played in 12 of the Kiss’ 18-games this season. The 25-year old is from Long Beach, played college ball at Washington State, and had a quick stop in NFL training camp with the Carolina Panthers.
Romeo still has NFL aspirations, I talked to him about the current state of the NFL, what it’s like playing in the arena league and if he has concerns about CTE. Romeo suffered a, in his words “bad” concession while playing in college at Washington State.
Jill: How was the experience playing in the inaugural season for the LA Kiss with rock legends as owners? Was it a different type of experience for you?
PELLUM: Ya, definitely different, we’re basically in the limelight out here (Los Angeles) because of our owners, and because of the name Kiss, it’s different than any other arena football team. When people think of arena football, they don’t think of, you know, “football.” But, when you look at Kiss, that kinda brands us, you know, and put us at a higher level than other teams as far as branding. Because of our owners and, the way that they did it, it was pretty smart, each home game you get basically a half time show and a live band and all that stuff, and you get all the fans that come out, the football fans, Kiss fans, and they all come together and they watch us play and I think those are the best games in the world.
Jill: Had you heard of KISS before you joined the team? Were you familiar with any of their music or their status?
PELLUM: Uhh, I honestly didn’t. I knew that song “I wanna rock and roll all niiight…” I knew that song but I didn’t know KISS, it was by KISS.
Jill: LA hasn’t had a football team in like twenty years. How does it feel being a part of football; being that you’re from Long Beach, right down the street, to play at home?
PELLUM: Ya, I mean it’s awesome, I mean it’s like a blessing you know, I get to be by my family and friends. They get to come watch me play. Um, I haven’t played here since high school; to be able to, you know, play at home, you know, basically it’s my job, I work at home and I get to do what I love at home, there’s no better feeling than that, you know. You know, people come from all over and I’m just blessed to be able to be here year round for my son, you know. He gets to watch all my games at home, you know. That’s awesome.
Jill: What’s the difference moving from playing in college or in the NFL, to playing in the arena league?
PELLUM: Well, of course the field is smaller. Ummm, it’s fifty yards long and about twenty seven yards wide. That’s the biggest, biggest difference right there; is the field size. You have walls on the sideline, there’s no sideline. There’s walls right there. So I mean, you can go over the wall, you can hit the wall. Being a defensive player, there’s a wide receiver, he has a running start at you. So, he can run towards you before the ball is snapped so he has, he’s already going full speed when he cross the line of scrimmage, and you know that’s tough for a DB.
Romeo’s goal is to get into the NFL. He believes his skills could be a good fit for the Jets, Colts or Chargers to name a few teams. I asked him if he worries about CTE. CTE has been a headline topic this year following a lawsuit filed against the NFL by former players. Romeo coaches a pop warner team and has a three-year old son.
Jill: You’ve played, probably, football all your life. What do you think about the lawsuits that are happening between the NFL and some former players about CTE? Is it something that you think about? Is that something that you consider regarding your own career? Would you let your son play football?
PELLUM: Oh, of course, ya. He’s my son. He already runs around cause I coached my little brother’s Pop Warner team, so my son goes out there to practice running around, and you know, as soon as he’s able to play, once he’s old enough, he’ll play.
But I do take concussion serious. I got a concussion my freshman year at Washington State where I was unconscious for a second. It was really, really bad. I know that that it’ll probably affect me long term, but I love this game and I’m not gonna let a concussion stop me from playing unless it was really, really serious, you know, life threatening. But my brother and my son, they’ll continue to play football if that’s what they want to do.
The NFL game is changing, and its impacting defensive players. I wanted to know if those affects were showing up in the arena league.
Jill: What do you think about some of the rule changes that are affecting the NFL? With hits and the targeting area? Do you think that that it affects your game or that it will? Does it take away some of your passion for it because their sorta stripping down the game from where it was organically?
PELLUM: Ya, I mean, I wouldn’t say it takes the passion away but, it kinda makes this offensive game because defense, I mean, you’re supposed to stop the person with the ball. You’re supposed to hit the person with the ball. And all these rules, it’s making it hard. You’re scared to hit somebody because you’re scared that you’re gonna get ejected; or you’re scared you’re gonna get fined. You know, stuff like that. And I just, I don’t know, it’s like it’s soft.
Jill: Eventually, football is not going to be what you grew up with. Does it make feel differently about the game? Or will you keep adjusting your game if need be?
PELLUM: You’re always gonna have to keep adjusting the game, once you love something you love it, well that’s for me at least. I’ll always love football no matter if I’m playing, coaching or watching. I’ll forever love this game. But, it kinda takes an element out of your game, you know, for DB’s or defensive players, if you’re like a guy that loves to hit, and that’s your strength, like you’re a hitter and you can’t do that to your full potential because of the rules, it kinda takes a part of your game away. And that…
Jill: What’s your favorite part about playing football?
PELLUM: I love the game and the experience. I got a lotta experience playing college and professional football. And I get to travel, I went to Canada, I’ve been to almost every, every state in the US. because of football. I’m just blessed because a lot of people don’t get to do that. You know, travel and do what you love to do
Romeo does a lot of work in his community, mentoring kids who are growing up in a similar environment, and may not have positive male role models in their life.
photos via Romeo Pellum