It was the kind of play Isaiah Trussell could almost run in his sleep after all these years.
The Salina (Kan.) Liberty of the Champions Indoor Football League were working on an inside running play during practice Monday. Trussell, an offensive lineman, was trying to hook the defensive lineman so the running back could cut inside, but there was something unfortunate that came up.
Yes, it was a wall surrounding the field inside the Tony’s Pizza Center, where the Liberty will play their home games. The field was only 50 yards long by 30 yards wide and Trussell ran out of room.
“It (the wall) was about four-and-a-half feet tall,” said Trussell, a three-year starter for Case High School and Carthage College who played for the Racine Raiders last summer. “If you’re running outside, you don’t have much room and you run into a wall. It’s very painful. That was my awakening moment.”
Welcome to Trussell’s new world, where he will be paid for the first time to throw blocks. It will just take awhile before it feels natural to him.
Besides that smaller field, this league uses a seven-on-seven format. That means Trussell will typically be lining up with two other offensive linemen, a quarterback, two receivers and a running back. Another set features three receivers and no running backs.
“Everything is in your face,” said the 6-foot-3, 314-pound Trussell. “I mean, football is quick, but you have to accomplish your assignment in one step almost. You can’t take three to four and try to fight the leverage.
“You either get ‘em right away or you move your man out of the way, just mano a mano. That’s the biggest thing I had to learn.”
Trussell’s agent, Kinte Varnell of Priority Sports in the Racine-Kenosha Area, put out film of Trussell during the offseason. A phone call from the Liberty soon followed.
“They liked it a lot,” Trussell said of the film. “They negotiated a contract and got me down here.”
Trussell reported to his new team March 1 and has been preparing for the season opener against the Amarillo Venom in Texas March 23. The final cuts have yet to be made, but Trussell said he has been lining up with the first team in practice since joining the Liberty.
He is being housed by the team in the Econo Lodge in Salina and shares a room with a teammate. Trussell declined to reveal details of his contract, but said the team covers most expenses.
“I really don’t pay for a lot,” he said.
Once the season starts, the Liberty will make long road trips, all by charter bus, to states that include Texas, Iowa, Arkansas and Kentucky.
And when Trussell isn’t playing football, there will be a great deal of downtime in his new community.
“We practice for about two or two-and-a-half hours a day, depending on how well we do,” Trussell said. “And I’ll meet people around town, hang around with teammates, get involved in the community and see what we can do for them. I’m trying to represent the football team as best as we can.”
If the Liberty advance to the playoffs, Trussell will be in Salina until well into July. He’s hoping this season will serve as a foundation for a professional career at higher levels.
“I want to make my city proud of what one of the native sons have been doing,” Trussell said. “I want to be a role model for people who are trying to follow in different footsteps.”
Trussell becomes the second Raider to join the CIFL. Jordan Payne, the Raiders’ leading receiver last season, recently signed with the Oklahoma Flying Aces.