By Eric Norwood Jr.
CNJ staff writer
While the National Football League is in the midst of the playoffs, the Curry County Cats of the New Mexico Premier Football League are gearing up for the preseason.
After spending last season in the Texas-dominated Professional American Football League, the Cats are headed back to the NMPFL, where they competed in 2011 and 2012, finishing with an 8-3 record each year.
Other changes that highlight a new season include new coaches. General Manager Paul Lopez has stepped down to allow Chad Roanhaus to take over as head coach and offensive coordinator, and Chad’s brother John Roanhaus will take over as defensive coordinator.
“We look forward to having some fun and playing good Clovis football,” said Chad Roanhaus, son of legendary Clovis High School coach Eric Roanhaus.
Lopez is now dealing with the business end, where he says it took almost $12,000 to complete the 2013 season.
“My coaching days are over,” chuckled Lopez. “Chad and John are very football savvy and I trust them a lot,” said Lopez.
Each returning player pays $100 to be on the team. New players pay $200, a stark contrast to the hundreds of thousands of dollars that NFL players earn. But in reality, they are still not paying the full cost to dress a player.
“To suit out one player, it costs $500,” said Lopez, who listed expenses for each player at $250 for a helmet, $150 for shoulder pads, $100 for the uniform, plus cleats. And don’t think that Leon Williams Field doesn’t charge the Cats because they are a local team.
“We had to take out a $2 million insurance policy to use the facility,” said Lopez. “Plus we pay $150 per game, and $50 per hour per game. If we turn on the lights, that’s another $150, plus $50 per hour of lighting. Oh yeah, it costs us $750 a game to pay the referees,” added Lopez.
The expenses pile up fast in a league where income is light. Each player is required to seek out a local sponsorship, but not all players have one. Even Lopez admits it is tough.
“You’ve got little league kids and high schools asking businesses for donations and money, and when it’s a team full of grown men, people tend to help the kids more,” said Lopez.
After a 6-4 season last year, Lopez is anxious to get started. The Cats have an exhibition game at Cowboys Stadium on Jan. 19. Every player has to sell five tickets for the Cats to see the field, and Lopez is pushing his players to get it done.
“Semi-pro football is a hard life,” Lopez said. “But we don’t do it for money, we do it for Clovis and because we love the game.”