The Soul's man finds his Philly groove
MOST PHILADELPHIA football fans would tell you that if a
quarterback was to make it into a Hall of Fame for his play in
the 1990s and 2000s, then hang around Philly afterward, they'd have figured it to be Eagles star Donovan McNabb - certainly,
not some guy from Dallas.
As it turns out, that quarterback is Texas-bred passer and Arena Football legend Clint Dolezel, now coaching Ron Jaworski's team, the Soul.
Like Jaws, Dolezel, 44, is competitive to a fault, and is very much his own man. For instance, Dolezel has no aspirations to follow AFL superstar quarterback and accomplished AFL coach Jay Gruden into the NFL. (Jay, Jon Gruden's little brother, is Washington's new head.)
Unlike Jaws, Dolezel rose to fame in Texas, where, over 13 seasons, he played on two of his five AFL teams, including Dallas. He remains among the top five AFL quarterbacks in passing yards, touchdown passes and completions, which earned him an AFL Hall of Fame induction in 2012, when he joined the Soul as its offensive coordinator.
Dolezel took the head job last season and led the club to the title game, but injuries have held the team around .500 this season . . . though the anti-Dallas heckling has lessened. Marcus Hayes spoke with him at practice this week.
Q You realize you exist in enemy territory.
It took a while for them to accept me, especially playing against Philly all those years. It took them three-quarters of a season just to forgive me for being from Dallas. It was all in good fun, but they've always abused me. I get the looks, more than anything. I'm full-fledged Philly now.
Q Soul fans love your fire. Has your hyper-competitiveness ever gotten you in trouble?
Many times. Back in Dallas, when I was playing, I lost my cool over a penalty and snapped at my head coach. I realized, in a matter of seconds, what I'd done. I needed to apologize to him and the team, as well.
I've had instances like that all through my career, and in high school, too. It's a combination of competitiveness and temper. I've worked on it. I've come a long ways. It's probably my worst quality, and my best quality. The fire's still in there, and it could come out at any time: golf, football, Frisbee golf. I'm trying to win.
Q Even when you play Jaws in golf? You played golf your last year in college. Can he hang with you? Do you let the boss beat you?
I'd never let him win, but, you know, we never really played a heads-up match. He's a good golfer, around a 7-handicapper. I'm right around there, too. The only difference is, I usually play from the back tees. He's obviously getting a little older, so he plays from a tee up or so.
He's a got a great swing. He plays this baby draw every time.
Q You're 6-foot-5, and you clearly can play - you're a Hall of Famer, the eighth-best AFL player ever - yet all you got in the NFL was an invitation to Bears camp in 2000. What kept you from jumping to the NFL, like Kurt Warner? What NFL Hall of Fame-type quarterback were you like?
I had two older brothers, Steve  and Lance . We grew up outside of Waco, and we never had air conditioning, so we spent all our time outdoors, playing something. That made me super competitive.
Potentially Brett Favre. He's super competitive, a little reckless at times, like when I played. I called my own plays, too, so maybe Peyton Manning.
I didn't maximize my potential. I didn't have a good enough single-sport work ethic. I played all the sports in high school. Now, everything's specialized. I didn't spend enough time in the weight room. I was a 6-5 but just 185 pounds coming out of college. Going to a small college [East Texas State], didn't help. The NFL measures everything, but they can't measure a guy's heart.
Q You have a 17-year-old daughter, Molly, and a 15-year-old son, Trevor, back in Texas with your wife, Kris, and since you started coaching you've left them there during the season . . . but you are with them for six full months, too. Are you willing to give that up in hopes of following Jay Gruden to the NFL, where coaches work 11½ months a year, 16 hours a day?
No. Not really. I love what I do. I'm selfish, too, when it comes down to it. I like my life. I coach Arena Football. I know it like the back of my hand. You can be done at 12:30 every day. I can do other things: play golf, go fishing in the afternoon.
In the NFL, there is no lull time. That's not a life I really want. Yeah, the money's better. But it's not always about the money.