For the Love of the Game
The Carolina Renegades football team is ready to take it all this season.
The Renegades is a local non-profit semi-professional team that plays in the Central Carolina Football League (CCFL). The players don’t play for money because they aren’t paid a dime. Some are no spring chickens, way past their football-playing prime; others squeeze in practices around their busy job schedules.
Head Coach Dale Glossenger, who owns the team with his wife Sandy, said his guys are motivated by their love of the game and the thrill of victory that playing well can bring.
“That’s truly why these players are out here,” he said.
The Renegades squad is heavy with veterans. Many of the players have suited up for colleges, the Arena Football League (AFL) and European leagues. They started the season, which runs from July through October, with a 44-0 victory over the Rowan (County) Rampage and a 22-18 win over the Stanly County Panthers. They nearly took it all last season, losing by a point to the Greenville (S.C.) Seminoles in the CCFL semifinal game in Columbia, S.C.
“When these lights go on, these guys light up,” said Dan Finkelstein, team vice president and receivers coach.
A longtime football fan, Glossenger started the Renegades five years ago. He played the game in the Army, but an injury put him on the sidelines. He channeled his love for the game into coaching for the Carolina Heat in Greensboro and Thomasville Titans, both CCFL teams. He then decided Winston-Salem needed its own team.
“I just saw the need in Winston because of the amount of talent in Forsyth County,” said Glossenger, who works as a maintenance engineer and lives in Davidson County.
Over the past three years, the Renegades, one of the 1,200 semi-pro football teams in the country, has had five of its players picked to play in the semi-pro National All-Star Game in Las Vegas. Glossenger has also been a pick, serving as an offensive coordinator and head coach in the big game.
Renegades Running Back Al Washington, now in his third season, has been picked twice to play in the All-Star Game. The former N.C. A&T Aggie is a Greensboro firefighter. He’s been playing the sport since he was eight and says that being on the field still makes him feel young.
“It’s something fun to do to stay fit,” said Washington, 32, who plans to retire from the team after this season.
Defensive Back Dwayne Ijames has been a Renegade for two years. He played at Elon College and then briefly for the NFL’s Cleveland Browns and the AFL’s Laredo (Texas) Lobos and Corpus Christie (Texas) Sharks. He said he left the sport after a lockout spurred by a dispute over salaries. He was reminded how much he still loves the game when he saw his friends suited-up for the Renegades.
Ijames, a 28-year-old substance abuse counselor in Greensboro, believes his experience is an asset, allowing him to guide others on the team while enhancing his own play.
“I play wise and smart now instead of physical and fast. I’m just as effective without all the testosterone,” said Ijames, who too may call it quits after this season for a chance to serve as a Renegades coach.
Defensive End Marques “Bus” Newman, 30, who’s played at Fayetteville State University and with the AFL’s Dallas (Texas) Desperadoes, is a second-year Renegade. He says the team is like a family and that he and all of his teammates share one goal.
“We grew as a team and everybody’s back this year, and our one goal is to get in that championship and get that ring. (We) got a lot of people on their last year playing football, and we’re trying to get it for them,” said Newman, who plans to start teaching high school soon. Glossenger likes his team’s chances.
“Really, honestly and truly, because of the talent we got, the only people that can beat us are ourselves,” said Glossenger.
To sustain itself financially, the team depends on ticket sales and on sponsors like Nitty Gritty, Mossy’s Sports Bar in Clemmons, JP Looneys in Kernersville and Smith and Associates in Houston, Texas. Atkins Academic and Technology High School provides the team with a place to practice and a stadium in which to play home games. In exchange for the support it has received, the team gives back whenever it can. The Renegades collected food for Second Harvest Food Bank and lent some muscle to a Habitat for Humanity build. The Renegades also asked fans to bring items to games to create 70 care packages to an Army engineering unit in Afghanistan. That cause was personal for the Glossengers, who have two sons in the military.
The next Renegades home game will be against the Winston-Salem Red Wolves at 7 p.m. this Saturday at Atkins High School, 3605 Old Greensboro Road. For the Renegades full season schedule, got to www.renegadesfootball.com.