The Tallahassee Titans are two weeks away from kicking off the first game in team history, but the message from training camp couldn't be clearer - anything less than a championship is unacceptable.
"If you go through a season saying we just want to be .500, you might not get .500. You don't sit there and plan to be average," former Florida State wide receiver Patrick Harrington said. "You plan to be the best. With the talent we have on the team, we literally can be the best."
To bring a championship to Tallahassee, the Titans front office has brought in a coach who knows a thing or two about winning and the south, former University of Alabama star defensive back Keven Jackson.
Jackson played at Alabama in the mid- '90s and led the team in interceptions both years and was named co-MVP in the Southeastern Conference, a Walter Camp All-American and a finalist for the Jim Thorpe award.
Injuries cut short Jackson's professional career with the Arizona Cardinals, leading to Jackson finding his way to the Arena Football League, where he had a four-year career.
Jackson began coaching as a volunteer assistant defensive backs coach with Alabama. It wasn't long before he got an offer from the Canton Legends to become their assistant head coach/defensive coordinator.
Jackson's football knowledge paid immediate dividends as he helped lead the Legends to the then American Indoor Football League championship in 2006.
The American Indoor Football League then folded and from its ashes the American Indoor Football Association was formed, which the Titans are one of three expansion teams.
Jackson is eager to see his old team on the field, but since the Legends were left off the Titans schedule, the only way that could happen is if the two meet in the championship game, a scenario Jackson would welcome with open arms.
"We're going to see them in the championship game. I can see it. I can sleep on it," Jackson said. "I really, really want to play them and get that edge. That would be real great for me."
Part of the reason Jackson left the Legends was that he wanted to coach closer to home. Before taking the Titans job, he turned down head coaching offers from two arena teams based in Pennsylvania.
"I wanted to try and win a championship in the south, where I'm from," Jackson said.
To help him bring a championship to Tallahassee, Jackson has built his team with local talent. The roster is full of former Florida State, FAMU, and local high school players.
The presence of former Florida State players Harrington, Brian Ross, and James Coleman has given the team a level of experience that could only come from consistently playing against the toughest competition in the nation.
"You need that experience," Jackson said. "To have them come in with their leadership, guys look up to that. Guys look up to Florida State guys."
At the same time it also motivates players.
"We have a lot of players that are hungry," Harrington said. "We have a lot of players on the team that feel like they've got to prove themselves because maybe they didn't get their shot somewhere else."
The first chance for the Titans to prove themselves will be Feb. 12, when they open the season on the road against North Carolina. Five days later the Titans return to Tallahassee to play Gulf Coast in the first of eight home games at the Leon County Civic Center.© Copyright 2007 FSView and Florida Flambeau
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