Soul's Jones using NFL past to help AFL present

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Soul's Jones using NFL past to help AFL present

Anthony “Tiger” Jones made the ultimate sacrifice.

He chased his dream, and put his reality on hold.

The dream: Playing in the NFL.

Jones’ reality: Help the Soul win an AFL championship.

He had to choose. Jones couldn’t do both.

The decision was easy, so Jones made it. He gave up on the AFL season last year in pursuit of his NFL dream.

“Gave up is a strong word,” Jones said.

The word sacrifice was then replaced. “Yeah,” he said. “That’s better.”

Jones did have a point.

When the Eagles called him last year to join their preseason roster, Jones sacrificed the remainder of his AFL season.

Jones’ 133 receptions, 2,010 yards and 47 touchdowns -- a footnote. After the Eagles signed him in July 2012, helping a 15-3 Soul team, who advanced to ArenaBowl XXV, was a no-go.

You see, Jones had to relinquish the remainder of his 2012 season to avoid any injury; hence, all the star wide receiver could do was watch from afar. But it was all worth it.

Jones was able to wear an NFL uniform. He was given a chance to pursue his dream, so the decision to leave the AFL was a no-brainer.

“I mean, I don’t regret what I did,” said Jones, recalling his brief NFL stint. “Everybody here, organization-wise, was behind me 100 percent and wanted me to go and do my thing.”

Though the decision to leave was a simple one, it still was a difficult one.

“It was definitely a catch-22, though. We put in a lot of work last year to get where we got, and at the end of the season, you want to finish it out,” Jones said. “To not be there, obviously I felt a certain type of way about it, but an opportunity like that, with the Eagles, you can’t pass up.”

Jones’ stay in an NFL locker room didn’t last long. He recorded two receptions for 10 yards in the 24-23 preseason win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in August. Later that month, he was handed his walking papers.

Listen to Jones recall his NFL experience, you get the sense he wasn’t surprised by his release.

Listen long enough, and he basically confirmed it. His reason: “The cast that they had at receiver, none of those guys aren’t going anywhere. (Jeremy) Maclin is not going anywhere. (DeSean) Jackson is not going anywhere. (Jason) Avant is not going anywhere. So, when you only have five spots available and most of those spots already secure … it’s tough.”

But his stay wasn’t wasted. Jones saw first-hand what being on an NFL team is like, which he said isn’t all that different from his current AFL team. He felt what many attempt to feel but never get the chance to -- playing in an NFL game. His name stitched on the back, NFL logo on the front.

While with the Eagles, Jones saw a little of himself in Avant, who he credited for helping him make the transition.

“He’s not afraid to take a guy and try to show him,” Jones said. “Sometimes you get veteran guys and they just want to do what they do. A young guy or new guy comes in; they really don’t want to talk to him.

“But Avant will take you and talk to you. He’ll show you [how to run a route better]. He’ll just give you tips and pointers.”

Funny how it all works. Jones is playing that same leadership role, the mentor role, right now for the 2013 version of the Soul.

Soul rookie wide receiver Ryan McDaniel is the Tiger Jones on the Eagles, while Jones is playing the role of Avant -- he’s helping McDaniel make the jump. Giving him pointers and tips.

Whatever Jones is teaching, McDaniel is certainly learning and executing on the field. McDaniel is second on the Soul with 748 receiving yards (Jones is first with 1,656) and third on the team in receptions with 58.

“He’s been a real good friend,” a surprised McDaniel said.

Asked if he was shocked that Jones reached out to help, McDaniel admitted he was. “I didn’t think (Jones) would take me in like [he] did when I came into camp. … He’s been very helpful throughout the whole season. It’s not one time that he’s gave me an attitude because I’ve asked a question. He’s a real good guy.”

McDaniel’s last sentence sums up what the Soul thinks of Tiger Jones. Head coach Clint Dolezel and quarterback Dan Raudabaugh included.

Jones was smiling as he recalled his time with the Eagles, blocking out the fact that he was laying on the trainers table getting treatment.

Right now, Jones is giving it all he’s got. He wants a chance to redeem that sacrifice he made last season. Right now, he’s focused on helping the Soul get back to and win the ArenaBowl.

As for the NFL, “If it happens again, then it happens again,” Jones said.

But what if the recently turned 31-year-old gets another phone call, this time from Chip Kelly, inviting him to another Eagles training camp -- what then? Does Jones make another sacrifice and depart the Soul one more time? Does he stay?

He was asked those questions and responded, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

Soul retain WR Ryan McDaniel, add FB Mykel Benson

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Soul retain WR Ryan McDaniel, add FB Mykel Benson

The Philadelphia Soul will have a mix of new and old faces as they try to repeat as ArenaBowl champions in 2017.

Wide receiver Ryan McDaniel will return for his fifth year with the Soul while former Arizona Rattlers fullback Mykel Benson joins the roster for the 2017 season.

McDaniel played his college ball at Samford and then spent one year in the Professional Indoor Football League before coming to the Arena Football League (AFL) in 2013 and joining the Soul. The 28-year-old receiver has 345 receptions for 4,159 yards and 88 touchdowns over the course of his tenure in Philadelphia. He had 19 touchdowns and eclipsed 1,000 yards as the team's third-leading receiver in 2016.

“Ryan has been a constant in our receiving core for four seasons now,” head coach Clint Dolezel said in a press release. “He has developed into a very skilled athlete who can help lead this team to another winning season.”

Benson, a 29-year-old fullback who attended Florida A&M, has been on five different arena football teams since 2011, spending the last two seasons with the Arizona Rattlers, who lost in the 2016 ArenaBowl to the Soul. Benson was First Team All-Arena last season and had 171 rushes for 507 yards and 37 touchdowns during his time with the Rattlers.

“We have a tradition of running the football and bringing in a guy like Mykel Benson keeps that tradition going,” Dolezel said. “His All-Arena talent will strengthen our offense and help keep our back-to-back ArenaBowl dreams alive.”

The Soul retained the centerpiece of their offense earlier this week, coming to terms with quarterback Dan Raudabaugh

Soul bring back Dan Raudabaugh for sixth season

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Soul bring back Dan Raudabaugh for sixth season

The Philadelphia Soul on Wednesday agreed to terms with quarterback Dan Raudabaugh, who will return for his sixth season with the team and eighth in the AFL.
 
“Dan has proven he can lead a team to a championship and we are looking forward to him leading the charge as we defend our title this season,” Soul head coach Clint Dolezel said in a statement. “There’s not a better quarterback in this league, we now have the best player in the league on our team ready to lead us to another championship.”

Raudabaugh, the 2015 AFL MVP and offensive player of the year, has guided the Soul to three division championships, three conference championships and three ArenaBowl appearances, including a championship last year.  

He finished the 2016 regular season with a 69.3 percent completion percentage, 4,303 total yards and 101 touchdowns.  In his career with the Soul, Raudabaugh has 1,865 completions, 23,115 total yards and 516 touchdowns.

Raudabaugh began his AFL career with the Dallas Vigilantes in 2010-11.