When Rickey Runion looks at what his new project can be, he sees opportunity. What that opportunity is depends on each person that joins the team.
Runion is the owner and head coach of the new Capital City Mustangs, a Charleston-based team in the Premier Amateur Football League. The PAFL stretches through the Mid-Atlantic, up the East Coast and into the Midwest. Runion said there are about 40 teams as far north as Michigan and Buffalo, New York.
The Mustangs are in a region that includes teams in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky. Players are not paid, so anyone who does play isn’t encumbered if they want to turn this stint with the Mustangs into a possible college future.
Runion, who has coached at the youth, high school and college levels, said that was part of the plan in forming the team.
“Maybe this could be a shot for them to get a second chance,” he said. “We’ve signed a lot of guys from smaller [high] schools in the southern part of state. For whatever reason, maybe they didn’t have drive to go to college or think they had the opportunity or maybe somebody didn’t push them hard enough. It’s definitely a focal point of why we wanted to do it.”
The roster isn’t just for young players. Runion said he has guys as old as 40 on the team, too. Theirs is a different opportunity. Their prime playing days may be over, but it’s a chance to take younger players under their wings and push them toward greater heights.
“When we brought some of the older guys in, we told them what our plan was,” Runion said. “We said, ‘Hey guys, we understand maybe your time is up and you just want to do this on the side. This is a great opportunity for you to mentor and guide these guys in the right direction.”
Runion doesn’t want this to be a fly-by-night outfit that fizzles out in less than a season. When he decided he wanted to start a PAFL team, he took a year to research it in order to hit the ground running and avoid others’ pitfalls.
“We want to make an impact in the community and for those who support us as well,” he said. “I want us to create a foundation for what the organization stands for. When you play for the Mustangs, this is what you’re playing for.”
The Mustangs will play a 10-game regular-season schedule starting in May, with home games at Dunbar Middle School. Runion said he’s still looking to fill about 10 spots on the roster and, any interested players can contact the Mustangs through March at their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/capitalcitymustangs/.