Five More Xplorers Make the Move Up to AFL
SOUTHAVEN --- The Memphis Xplorers of ArenaFootball2 announced today that five more members of the 2005 ArenaCup Championship team have signed with AFL teams for the 2006 season. 2005 Lineman of the Year Khreem Smith has signed with the Chicago Fire, WR/DB Sale Key and OL/DL Lewis Powell have signed with the Utah Blaze, FB/LB Lavante Epson has moved on with the Grand Rapids Rampage and OL/DL Delanio Taylor has inked a deal with the Orlando Predators. These signings push the number of 2005 Xplorers that have made the move to the next level up to 11.
This has got to be unprecedented, Xplorers Head Coach Danton Barto said reacting to the number of signings. I dont think there has been another team in af2 that has had this many guys move up. It is a real testament to the talent we had this past season. These players are all deserving of the opportunities.
The 6-foot-4, 270 pound Smith, in his rookie season out of Oklahoma State, led the league with 17 sacks, including nine in the first four games. His 17 sacks rank as the third best total in league history.
It was a pleasure to coach a player like Khreem, Barto said. He is a player with a ton of athletic ability and a desire to be the best player he can be. It is not often that a coach gets to help a player with Khreems talent and desire to be the best.
At 6-foot-4, Key was the perfect compliment to Kevin Prentiss at the receiver position. Key, who joined the Xplorers for the final four regular season games and the championship run, caught 25 passes for 343 yards and five touchdowns in 7 total games.
Sale was a guy who, after being one of the final receivers cut from the Cincinnati Bengals training camp, decided to play af2 and thought it would open new doors for him Barto said. He also was a huge impact player for us down the stretch. When Sale came it really opened up our offense and made us better.
By signing with Utah, OL/DL Powell is going back to where he played in college. He wrapped up a four year career with the Utes last year and was the Defensive MVP in the 2003 Liberty Bowl.
Lewis is one of the strongest football players that I have ever coached, Barto said. I also know that the Utah Blaze is getting one of the hardest working players that I have ever coached. I know that Lewis will be an asset to the team as a player and a person.
Epson was a force in the short yardage rushing game with four touchdowns as a fullback and as a linebacker on the other side of the ball with 24.5 total tackles and 2.5 sacks. The U.T.-Martin product played six games with Memphis in the 2004 season and came back this past season to help them win a championship.
Lavante is a player who believed in himself, Barto said. It paid off for Lavante to come back and play for us this past year. He was great for us with his leadership and playing ability. He is a glue guy on the field and off.
OL/DL Taylor bounced around a bit in the 2004 season, before landing with the Xplorers in 2005 and helped to solidify the offensive and defensive lines.
Delanio has the size and the skill to make an impact in the AFL, Barto said. He really helped us in the trenches and I look for him to do the same with the Orlando Predators.
Here are the 11 Memphis Xplorers who have signed with an AFL club for next season:
OL/DL Khreem Smith Chicago Fire
WR/DB Sale Key Utah Blaze
OL/DL Lewis Powell Utah Blaze
FB/LB Lavante Epson Grand Rapids Rampage
OL/DL Delanio Taylor Orlando Predators
QB Brian Jones Las Vegas Gladiators
OS Kevin Prentiss Las Vegas Gladiators
DS Dahnel Singfield New York Dragons
WR/DB Terrance Quattlebaum Las Vegas Gladiators
OL/DL Nate Grace Las Vegas Gladiators
OL/DL Lavell Mann Las Vegas Gladiators
The Memphis Xplorers2005 ArenaCup Champions
The Xplorers will defend their Arena Cup Championship in 2006 and you can be in on the action. Season Tickets are available now and begin as low as $56. Dont miss all the action of the 50-Yard Indoor War. For season ticket information call the Xplorers office at 662-342-1755.
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