Columbus Lions Host Free Agent Tryouts

We’re still months away from the 2016 PIFL season, but the Columbus Lions are already thinking about 2016. On Saturday morning, the Lions held their first free agent tryout of the new year, looking for guys to be a part of another successful season.

"We’re always looking for that diamond in the rough," said head coach Jason Gibson. "That’s what these tryouts are about and finding out what we have with these free agents coming in."

More than 35 players were hoping to land a spot with the defending PIFL champions as they went through various drills that tested their speed and skills.

"It’s a live resume rather than turning one in on paper," Gibson said. "You come in, we test them in drill work, look at their foot work, just try to start evaluating, start getting a board for players coming in."

The majority of those that attended the tryouts have been playing the sport of football for years. Guys like Byron Dickerson and Mazi Ogbonna who have been training for moments like this at Georgia Sports Performance in Atlanta.

"Speed, explosiveness, conditioning, ball skills, route running, everything that’ll make us better players for this league and other leagues, just becoming the best football player we can be," said Ogbonna.

"It’s a lot on your body but at the same time, if you want the opportunity then you got to put in the work to get it," added Dickerson.

Ogbonna and Dickerson have probably gotten the best training you can get for a tryout like this. Eric Johnson is a former linebacker for the Nebraska Cornhuskers and went on to play professional ball in Oakland, Atlanta, and Arizona. He later transitioned to the AFL where he played for the Georgia Force, before finally playing a stint in the AIFL with the Columbus Lions. For the last few years, he’s taken players like these guys under his wing, getting them ready to play at the next level.

"Number one is conditioning and then, most importantly, is you have to have the actual skill and the actual understanding of the game," said Johnson. "I mean it’s a pleasure giving back because I didn’t have the best background or I didn’t have the support and I’m just helping keep dreams alive."

If you missed Saturday’s tryouts, the Lions say they will hold another one later this fall.