Dick Vermeil buys into Arena League Philly Soul

DICK VERMEIL has done just about everything in football, except own a team.

Until now.

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Vermeil

Vermeil is buying a 2.5 percent stake in the Philadelphia Soul. Vermeil, 78, becomes the latest high-profile figure to join the group. Saints wide receiver Marques Colston became part of the ownership in October. There also has been talk that Philadelphia native Jahri Evans, a longtime teammate of Colston's, is next.

Real estate mogul Craig Spencer, a co-founder of the Soul along with Ron Jaworski and Jon Bon Jovi, has been looking to diminish his investment in the club, which on Sunday will play for a berth in the ArenaBowl championship game.

"This was an opportunity to invest in Ron Jaworski," Vermeil said. "I will always be in debt to Ron for all of the things he did [as a player] for me for those six years."

Vermeil was named Eagles coach in 1976, and the Birds traded for Jaworski the following year. Jaworski was the starting quarterback for the remainder of Vermeil's tenure, which included a trip to Super Bowl 15 following the 1980 season.

The Soul is one of the few stable franchises in the 28-year-old league, which recently had to fold teams in Las Vegas and New Orleans. The AFL shut down in 2009, and the Soul resumed play in 2011 without Bon Jovi.

Vermeil laughed when asked how the late Leonard Tose, the Eagles' extravagant owner when Vermeil was coach, would react to Jaworski and Vermeil being part of an ownership group.

"Oh, Leonard would love this," Vermeil said. "Leonard would be buying up all the shares. He definitely would be investing in this."

Vermeil coached UCLA to a Rose Bowl title, won two NFC championships and led the Rams to a Super Bowl victory following the 1999 season with Kurt Warner as his quarterback. Warner, who played for the Iowa Barnstormers from 1995-97, is easily the Arena Football League's most famous alum.

"Yes, this isn't the NFL," Vermeil said, "but there's a real place for it. I was down there last Saturday [for a Soul game], and it was a good atmosphere."

Unlike the NFL, fans are allowed to keep footballs that wind up in the stands. Naturally, one landed near where Jaworski and Vermeil were sitting. Jaws gave it to his old coach, who turned and handed it to his wife, Carol.

"[The AFL] is priced at a level for families,'' Vermeil said. "There were lots of kids, and you can get so close that you can almost hear the players breathe."

Soul notes

Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh was named first-team all-Arena yesterday. He was joined on the top team by kicker Tommy Frevert and offensive linemen Shannon Breen and Adam Smith. Fullback Tommy Taggart and wide receiver Marco Thomas made second team. Raudabaugh is the first Soul quarterback since Matt D'Orazio in the 2008 championship year to be named first-team all-AFL.


On Twitter: @EdBarkowitz