The Missoula Raptors held an open run at the SHEC recreation center on Saturday. The fledgling semi-pro football team hosted more than 80 prospective players, who packed the gymnasium to fill out paperwork and get tested in a number of basic drills. The crowd consisted of ex-college jocks, fathers, students, teachers, a former minor league baseball player and a handful of fellows who had never played football before. Faded sweatshirts celebrating state championships of years past were in abundance, but the nervous competitive posturing that generally marks any athletic tryout seemed to be at a minimum. Team organizers Paul Ryan (safety) and Reajim Seabrook (fullback) do not plan on making cuts, and a roster of more than 100 (35 signed-on Raptors did not show up Saturday) does not concern them. “We’re a community organization,” says Ryan, a babyfaced 20-year-old sophomore at UM who was “too skinny” for high school football. “We don’t want to cut anyone.”
Still, Ryan and Seabrook are optimistic they can be competitive in the Rocky Mountain Football League. “We have a guy who ran a 4.4 forty [yard dash],” gushes Seabrook, a former D-1AA player. “And the linemen are running 5.5 and under; we’re talking 300-pound, breast-fed-until-they-were-15 boys.” The Raptors say they’re close to securing a coach with 20 years of college experience. The team, whose members must pay between 25 and 40 dollars to play, will begin outdoor practices March 1. The eight-game regular season opens April 15, and the Raptors will sport their home green and white at either Washington-Grizzly Stadium or Loyola Stadium. Ten percent of ticket sales will go directly to Missoula area nonprofit organizations. “We represent our community,” Ryan reminded his new teammates before breaking them out by position. “We’ll be an upstanding team, and we’ll play clean; no bad hits.” “What about when we play Bozeman,” asked a tall receiver. “Well, we’ll see about that,” responded Ryan, drawing guffaws and bellows from his attentive, eager and hefty audience.