Larry Brackins has traveled an unlikely path in his football career, from junior college to the NFL and now to the Arena Football League. The Soul rookie wide receiver hopes to use this season as a showcase for prospective NFL teams.
At 6-foot-4 and 221 pounds, the 24-year-old has the size and speed to play in the NFL. Now he needs the experience.
After graduating from Dothan (Ala.) High School, where he was all-state in football and basketball, Brackins attended Feather River College, a junior college in Quincy, Calif. He played a year of basketball there, but he missed football.
Brackins transferred to Pearl River Community College in Hattiesburg, Miss., where he caught 101 passes for 1,834 yards and 19 touchdowns in two seasons.
From there, he was drafted in the fifth round by Tampa Bay in 2005. Brackins was released at the beginning of the season and signed to the practice squad.
The Buccaneers released him after the season, re-signed him, then cut him last July during training camp.
"I think he can be an NFL player," said Soul president Ron Jaworski, who saw Brackins while serving as a TV analyst for Buccaneers preseason games. "He was a little raw, didn't have the experience or coaching, but once he gets the reps in practice, you will see what he can do because he is so fast and runs good routes."
Brackins would like to run a route that would take him back to the NFL.
"That is one of my major goals, to get back to the league," he said. "It's a stopping point for me, to help the Soul win a championship."
After a relatively quiet first two games, Brackins caught six passes for 78 yards and three touchdowns in last week's 71-47 win over the Colorado Crush in the Soul's home opener. That kind of performance is what the Soul coaching staff has expected from Brackins.
"We knew just by watching his highlight tape he would be a special guy but a guy we had to keep an eye on in the maturity area," said Soul coach Bret Munsey, whose 3-0 team visits the 1-2 New York Dragons tomorrow. "He had a couple of things in Tampa - late at times for meetings - because he was young, but here he has been a really nice addition."
Since there is less room to operate in arena football, a player with Brackins' physical skills is a plus - especially in the red zone.
"He's a phenomenal athlete," said Soul quarterback Tony Graziani, who has thrown 19 TD passes and just one interception. "He is so long and jumps so well that all you have to do is get it around him, and he can go get it."
Though Brackins lacks experience, he makes up for it with confidence.
"I expected to come and do what I've been doing," he said. "Whether you are playing indoors or outdoors, it's playing football, and I'm doing what I like."
The fans like it, too. The Soul drew 14,721 for their home opener, and their response surprised Brackins.
"The first home game was really exciting," he said. "I didn't know the fans got into it like that, and it was a great atmosphere."
Jaworski says Brackins' hunger to improve has impressed those associated with the team.
"He does everything and is like a sponge, wanting to learn everything," Jaworski said. "I would hate to lose him, but if he went to the NFL, that would be terrific."
Soul at New York Dragons
When: Tomorrow at 1 p.m.
Where: Nassau Coliseum (11,985), Uniondale, N.Y.
Radio: WPEN-AM (950).
Records: Soul, 3-0. Dragons, 1-2.
Coaches: For the Soul, Bret Munsey, second year (12-7 regular season, 1-1 postseason). For the Dragons, Waylon Harding, third year (21-14 regular season, 0-2 postseason).
Last week: The Soul beat Colorado, 71-47, in their home opener. The Dragons won, 59-52, at Tampa Bay, a game they led for the last 31 seconds.
All-time series: The Dragons lead, 4-2.
Last meeting: April 29, 2006. The Dragons won, 65-58, at home.
Current series streak: The Dragons have won one and four of the last five.
Key injuries: For the Soul, WR-LB Sean Scott (concussion) is questionable. For the Dragons, QB Aaron Garcia is out while rehabilitating a broken leg suffered last season.
Points per game: For the Soul, 67.7. For the Dragons, 35.3.
Opponents' points per game: For the Soul, 39.0. For the Dragons, 57.7.
Top performers: For the Soul, QB Tony Graziani has thrown 19 touchdown passes and one interception. DB Eddie Moten, who has 16.5 tackles and three interceptions, leads the AFL with 15 pass breakups. WR-DB Mike Brown has 12.5 tackles and two interceptions. WR Charles Pauley has 21 receptions for 411 yards and nine TDs, while WR Larry Brackins has 11 receptions for 165 yards and three TDs.
For the Dragons, former NFL QB Rohan Davey has completed 58 of 95 passes for 671 yards and 10 TDs and thrown six interceptions. In last week's win at Tampa Bay, WR-LB Chris Anthony had five receptions for 62 yards and two TDs and added four tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception. WR Mike Horacek has 21 receptions for 307 yards and six TDs this year.
Fast fact: The Soul, who are in their fourth season, have never won four consecutive games.
- Marc Narducci
Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or email@example.com.