BOONE — If football was not already a year-round passion Boone, it may be now after the announcement that the High Country will be home to an indoor football team starting next spring.
The High Country Grizzlies hosted a press conference on Thursday to introduce the owners, general manager and coaching staff to the fans in attendance at McKethan Brothers Barbecue.
The Grizzlies will compete in the American Indoor Football League with play beginning in the spring of 2017.
Indoor football is a fast-paced version of the usual 11-on-11 football that everyone is familiar with on the field each Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the fall and winter months. The field is shorter, point totals are higher and with fewer players on the field, there’s a lot of open space for athletes to shine.
For the town of Boone and the surrounding areas, it was a no-brainer to try and continue to build on the ever-growing football passion that has burst onto the scenes over the last decade, thanks to three national championships for Appalachian State, a jump up to the Football Championship Subdivision and the numerous stadium expansion projects.
To make this opportunity possible, East Carolina graduate and business entrepreneur Donald Thompson decided it was time to try something new.
“We want to create a franchise that is a part of the fabric of the community. That’s part of what got me very interested in his,” said Thompson.
Thompson was invited to the business school at App State three years ago to speak, and he was drawn back to Boone after meeting a lot of great people and seeing the passion in the community for success.
“I remember sitting in Applebee’s with Coach (Jerry) Moore and listening to him talk about all the young men he helped throughout his career. Not the championships, not the accolades, but all of the people that he helped,” said Thompson. “Then I said if there’s a little bit we can do to inspire young people and also bring a phenomenal entertainment brand, also have partnership with the university, to use student interns, to become a fabric of the community, I wanted to be a part of it.”
Moore has been brought in as a consultant to help put together the best team possible for the High Country Grizzlies.
“It’s a privilege just to be asked to be a part of this,” he said.
Josh Resignalo will take the reigns as being the first head coach in team history. Resignalo has coached indoor football for six years and has been a high school coach for 10 seasons. In addition to being the Grizzlies head coach, the former United States Marine is also an assistant coach at Green Hope High School in Raleigh.
“I am very excited about the opportunity here. For me, It wasn’t about the football coach aspect of it, but more so, bettering myself as a person and gaining some knowledge and mentorship,” said Resignalo.
Long-time Watauga County resident William P. Thompson (no relation to the owner) will be in charge of putting the team together as the general manager and director of football operations. Thompson spent eight years as the equipment manager at App State and has had a strong passion for sports throughout his career. He has also coached and worked at Riddell Sports and SpeedTracs America providing equipment to athletes of all ages.
“We’ve got an organization here that will make the town of Boone, the county of Watauga and the surrounding areas very proud,” said Thompson. “There’s no second to none, I will accept nothing less. Even if it means working 24 hours a day to make it happen.”
“I want people to understand that we have a platform here. This platform is going to bring young men to this town from all over the world and we want the community to engage with these young men,” Thompson added. “Have them come to your church, have them come to your meetings of your community groups. We want to take them into the schools and have them read to the young men and young women. We want them to be a part of the 4H, we want them to be part of the boy scouts.”
Tryouts for the Grizzlies will take place in October with practice beginning in February, 2017.
Ticket sales, both season tickets and single-game tickets will be on sale soon.
Nathan Ham can be reached at 336-489-3062.