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Arena Football: Philadelphia Soul Looking For Talent in Open Tryout

By Matt Leon

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The Arena Football League season is quickly approaching.  The Philadelphia Soul will open things up on March 18th, in New Orleans, but they are still putting together their roster.

And tomorrow, at the Eagles' NovaCare complex in South Philadelphia, they will hold an open player tryout.

New Soul head coach Doug Plank stopped by the KYW Newsradio studios this morning to talk about his new gig, his career in football, and the upcoming tryouts.

Plank expects the quality of the talent that turns out tomorrow to be very good.

"The bottom line is, there are so many gifted athletes out there waiting for an opportunity to show they can play," he said.

And Plank stresses that the Soul has signed players from previous tryouts:

"I don't want anyone to think it's an impossibility.  I mean, this city has already proven in the past, even in the NFL, that you can have a tryout and you can get talent."

This is Plank's first season in Philadelphia, but the Arena League is nothing new to him.   He has already been a very successful coach in this league, winning "Coach of the Year" honors while leading Georgia in 2005 and 2007.   That 2005 season included an appearance in ArenaBowl XIX.

Plank's playing career was spent entirely with the Chicago Bears.  He patrolled the secondary as a safety for Chicago, where he thrived under the Bears' defensive coordinator (and former Eagles' head coach) Buddy Ryan.

It was Buddy, in an indirect way, that got Plank started down the path that led to coaching.

"One day I was driving to a Burger King I owned in Arizona, and I heard that Buddy Ryan was going to be made head coach and general manager of the Arizona Cardinals," Plank recalls.  "So I thought, 'Should I work lunch today, or should I get on it and congratulate Buddy?   So I went down and congratulated Buddy.  In five minutes -- five minutes! -- I was offered a pre-game and a post-game radio position with the Arizona Cardinals.  So now I'm a broadcaster!"

The journey continued.

"The same radio station that did the Arizona Cardinals did the Arena Football League, and (former Dallas Cowboys quarterback) Danny White was the coach in Arizona.  And I did that (broadcast their games) for four or five years.  Then, one game they did particularly bad and (White) fired the defensive coordinator on the spot.  And we're on the bus now, back to the hotel, and he says, 'Hey Doug, you want to be my defensive coordinator?   I'm not going to give you a contract, because if you do a bad job, you're going to be gone, too.'  I said, 'Okay, let's try it.'  We went to the championship that year, and the next two years -- three years in a row.  So that got me on the road of coaching."

Hear Matt Leon's full interview with Coach Doug Plank in this CBS Philly SportsPod...


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Plank has also served an assistant in the NFL, and the Ohio State product has also done some work with his alma mater.

Back to Saturday's tryouts...

If you want to take part, registration will start at 8:00am sharp and it costs $80 (non-refundable) at the door.  Stretching starts promptly at 9:00am.   Kickers will be evaluated at 1:00pm; they should report around 12 noon.

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