Harold Turner can finally breathe a sigh of relief.
After seeing just five prospects show up for the first tryouts of his new professional development football team, hope seemed dim. Five skeptical participants at that.
Turner had thrown everything he has – including his savings – into starting the N.C. Bison, the newest member of the Gridiron Development Professional League.
The GDPL offers players the opportunity to develop their skills in a competitive setting and showcase their talents before professional scouts. Since it is a spring league, players can hone their skills and still be available for the fall and winter sports.
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But, first, Turner had to field a team.
“I was a little shaky after the first combine with only five players showing up,” said Turner who also is CEO of Full Contact Sports Management, LLC, in Holly Springs. Full Contact is a sports development organization that helps athletes train year-round.
“I admit I was distraught. But I left it in God’s hands. I knew we had a great program, and I just kept continuing on.”
Turner could understand the skepticism and distrust. There are so many “professional combines” that promise to showcase athletes’ talent, only to take their money with nothing to show for it. Not only do players usually have to pay a fee to participate in tryouts, Turner said, but they’re required to pay for uniforms and other expenses if they make the team.
Not so with the Bison. The only fee was $60 for the combine. Sponsors pay for the uniforms, equipment, etc.
And there’s a stadium. All home games will be played at Durham County Stadium Saturdays at 7 p.m.
“After they saw that we were legitimate, word of mouth and social media helped bring in more players,” Turner said.
The Bison now have a 36-player roster, Turner said, including athletes from St. Augustine’s, Shaw, N.C. State and Virginia Tech.
“We have a lot of quality athletes that are NFL prospects but have kind of fell off the boat and are trying to get themselves together,” Turner said.
A new website is up and a logo has been created. The North Carolina Bison are ready for action.
Doug Hall of Jacksonville, Fla., is the head coach. The Bison will compete in the four-team Patriot Division along with the Hampton Road Redskins, Fayetteville Horizon and Palmetto Havoc. A fifth team, the Fayetteville Commandos, has been disbanded.
The Bison will share Durham County Stadium with the Carolina Phoenix, a professional women’s football team that won a league championship last season.
Players receive $100 compensation for home games only.
Turner said he knows he has a lot at stake. But he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“If you’re going to spend your money on something, why not spend it on something you enjoy doing instead of 10 cars,” he said. “I put it all in the Lord’s hands. It’s exciting to see the glow in everybody’s eyes. I’m trying to make this good happen daily.
The Bison won their debut Sunday, 58-24 against the Southern Virgnia Raiders, and next play at home May 31 against the Fayetteville Horizon.