Burrell’s coach Shawn Liotta and brother Jeremy are key cogs in the innovative Fan Controlled Football League

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Friday, June 3, 2022 | 00:01


Shawn Liotta’s passion for football coaching and the pursuit of success has no downtime.

It is a year round business. It’s his job.

And he wouldn’t want it any other way.

A veteran mentor in the sport for more than two decades at the high school, college and professional levels, including arena football for a decade and currently as a head coach at Burrell, Liotta embarked six years ago. years with a league project that is now bearing much fruit.

He is a main cog in the machine known as the Fan Controlled Football League, an indoor league that showcases well-known professional talent and experienced coaching minds in an atmosphere where the fans make their presence felt.

“When all of this was put together a few years ago, they wanted someone to come on board to help shape the football side,” Liotta said. “I’m so excited about what we’ve done and the fun things we’re adding for the future.”

Liotta is the league’s “lead head coach” for all eight teams and is responsible for an 18-member coaching staff that includes his brother, Jeremy, who also coaches with Shawn at Burrell.

“We probably have over 300 years of experience in the NFL and in the big colleges,” Shawn Liotta said. “They arrived with a lot of energy and ideas and were ready to make this league the best it could be.”

League fans can download an app that allows them to call games. They vote in real time for the offensive plays they would like to see played.

A system is set up where the results of the vote and the chosen game are relayed to the players.

“The fans are what this league is about,” Liotta said. “Myself and others as coaches, we go there and train, set up games during the week and all those sorts of things, but the fans make the decisions on game day. It’s a bit like fantasy football combined with video games that are live action with very good players.

A number of special game rules, Liotta said, make the game entertaining. Rock, paper and scissors replace the traditional toss.

In an effort to speed up the game, each half lasts 20 minutes with a clock running continuously, except for the last 30 seconds of each half and overtime.

There are seven players per team on the field including three on the offensive line.

There is no kick or kick.

Each team has access to a timeout and three power-ups, with a fifth down giving a team an extra game to avoid a turnover on downs.

Teams can also use a power play, which forces the opposing team to play the next game with only six players.

Two-point conversions are one-on-one with a receiver and a defender from the 5-yard line, and the quarterback has just three and a half seconds to throw the ball.

Each week, teams are reset through a draft, and fans participate as well.

Two players receive what amounts to a franchise tag, much like goalkeepers in fantasy football, Liotta said, and they stay with the team throughout the season. Defensive and offensive lines are drafted in groups to maintain a consistent quality of play.

All other players could play for multiple teams throughout the season.

All eight teams and a practice squad train, practice and play at one location, a state-of-the-art production facility with a 1,500-seat arena at Pullman Yards in Atlanta, Georgia.

The league manual, Liotta said, is the same one used in training at Burrell in terms of terminology and instruction, but with some variations to accommodate indoor play.

“It’s a pretty big operation. When I hold a practice, I foresee 165 players in the eight teams,” Liotta said. “To my knowledge, this has never really been done before. A large college football team may only have 100 or fewer players on their rosters. But we have great staff and everything is done professionally. We’re able to get a pretty good product out in the field.

Liotta said interest in the league and viewership on platforms such as Twitch, NBCLX and Peacock are increasing every week. He has also courted the interest and involvement of well-known names such as Ryan Shazier, Antonio Brown, Marshawn Lynch, Marcus Peters, Todd Gurley, Najee Harris and Julio Jones.

They, along with other big names in the music and entertainment industry, serve as team owners or weekly celebrity coaches.

“We have between two and three million people watching these games every week,” Liotta said. “The games themselves are great and there’s a pretty cool celebrity atmosphere. It all really draws a lot of people. It’s great football, but it’s not just football. It’s the environment total.

Former NFL players Terrell Owens, Johnny Manziel, Martavis Bryant, Terrence Williams and Rashad Jennings are just a few of the best players in the league that Shawn Liotta has worked with and knows.

“If you told me I would be the head coach of a team with Terrell Owens and Johnny Manziel and others like that, that’s a whole talent set,” Liotta said.

“There are at least 20 guys in the league now who are going to sign NFL contracts or go to NFL camps at the end of the season. That’s the level of talent we have.

The current season, dubbed “Season v2.0”, is now in the playoffs, with all eight teams completing the seven-week regular season last Saturday.

8OKI FC take on Bored Ape FC in a semi-final on Saturday at 6 p.m., while the Zappers and Shoulda Been Stars play at 8:30 p.m. Other creative team names in the league include Beasts, Glacier Boyz, Knights of Degen and Kingpins.

The championship game is June 11.

Jeremy Liotta coaches the Glacier Boyz, owned by a group that includes NFL cornerback Richard Sherman and rapper Quavo.

He was promoted from an offensive assistant coach role for the Glacier Boyz during the regular season and earned his first victory, 34-18, against Beasts on May 14.

“This season has been so much fun,” said Jeremy Liotta. “I got to meet all these celebrities who are just great people. And to be able to coach such great talents like Terrell Owens and Johnny Manziel, I couldn’t ask for anything more.

“There are so many things in games and media that players do, but we coaches hope to prepare a lot of players for the next stage of their football career. I’ve had a lot of guys on my list who are ready for the NFL. There’s a good mix of players who have been in the NFL for several years and others who are hoping to get there soon. It’s such a cool experience for me, and sharing that with my brother like us doing it as a coach at Burrell, it’s pretty special.

Michael Love is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Michael by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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