By: Karassa Stinchcomb and Michael Card
The Jacksonville Sharks are entering their tenth season, and the players as well as the team’s vice president have changed the way locals think about professional football.
The Sharks were established in 2009 and have made the playoffs in each of its seasons except 2014. During that time, the team has won two championships in 2011 and 2017.
Sharks Vice President Tim Johnson is responsible for getting corporate sponsors and taking care of the players’ housing, food, hotels and setting up training camp among other tasks.
“We’re not the Jaguars, but we can say that we’ve won two championships and that we do pack the house,” Johnson said.
Former Texas Christian University wide receiver Ja’Juan Story has signed with the Sharks this offseason after taking a three-year break from playing football.
“[It’s] a great opportunity to play for a team you know you have stability and the team isn’t going to be gone in like a year or two,” Story said.
The Sharks left the Arena Football League (AFL) in 2016 to join the National Arena League (NAL) in an effort to take better care of its players, although they would ultimately be receiving less money to do so.
“The AFL does pay more, not a whole lot more, but there’s a lot of pluses [NAL] give to the players like housing, food, medical, travel,” Johnson said. “We take care of the players 100 percent.”
Third-year defensive lineman Damien Jacobs feels that arena football allows players to have more personal interactions with their fans than other sports because of how close they are to the field.
“That’s what makes arena football great, is that the fans are able to get as close to us as they can, and that’s what makes it unique,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs says he is happy playing football but knows that it’s a dangerous game and that every player is one injury away from ending their career. Wide receivers fall over the side of the walls trying to catch the football, and lineman put their bodies at risk hitting 300-pound players every play.
Despite the risk, however, Jacobs is passionate about his sport and happy to make his mark in the city.
“The Sharks have had a lot of history long before I got here, and they will continue after I’m done,” Jacobs said. “Just to be a little tidbit in that ride, just a little part of that ride, it’s a good thing.”