A long process finally seemed on the verge of reality Thursday on the north side of La Crosse. The La Crosse Spartans, who were announced as an official Indoor Football League franchise back in August, begin training camp tonight.
And they kicked off the arrival of the 45 players hoping to find a spot on the 25-man roster with a press conference at their north-side headquarters Thursday morning.
That's where coach Gilbert Brown and co-owner/general manager Chris Kokalis revealed the rest of their coaching staff, a broadcast agreement and some of the faces they hope will allow them to compete for an IFL championship.
Brown, who helped the Green Bay Packers win Super Bowl XXXI as a defensive tackle in 1996, wasted no time in explaining how serious he's taking his new job.
Brown is here to win, and he made that very clear during his turn at the podium.
"We will bring a championship to this city, I guarantee it," he said. "We will bring a championship to this city."
He paused and grinned before finishing his statement.
"That's pressure on me. I love pressure."
Everyone who spoke to a crowd that included players, employees, sponsors and media depicted the coaching staff as the best in the IFL.
Brown's experience is known, and assistant head coach Kyle Moore-Brown is an indoor football veteran.
Defensive coordinator Mike Davis held that same job in helping the River City Rage qualify for the IFL's United Bowl last season.
Offensive coordinator Ryan Maiuri is a former quarterback for the Hamburg Blue Devils in NFL Europe.
That group, along with Kokalis, will oversee eight practices in three cities (La Crosse, Eau Claire and Rochester, Minn.) between now and Feb. 19 and one exhibition game on Feb. 21 before picking their final roster.
"We will find the best players for this team," Brown said, "and we're going to put them in the best position to win games."
Kokalis, despite other professional football interests, seems to be on the same page.
Kokalis said after the press conference that he would, indeed, be based in La Crosse throughout this season.
Kokalis is a co-owner and the president of the IFL's Kent Predators, who are based in Kent., Wash., and play in the Pacific North Division.
The Spartans are in the Central North Division and do not play Kent.
"I'm more on a consulting basis with (Kent)," Kokalis said. "My focus is the La Crosse Spartans and assuring that it will do everything we said it would for the La Crosse community.
"We have people in place out there, and it was a good investment opportunity for myself and Ken (Moninski), who is based in Seattle. My main focus is here."