Former Blackhawk now in UFL
October 06, 2010 - Former Brandon Blackhawk and University of Michigan football star Matt Lentz is playing for the Lions— the Sacramento Mountain Lions, that is.
Lentz, who was released by the Detroit Lions, is now playing his second season in the new United Football League.
"I'm a better Lion now," laughs Lentz.
The 2001 Brandon High School graduate pursued his dreams of playing professional football with several NFL teams after being an All-Big Ten first team selection with the Wolverines in both 2004 and 2005. He was an undrafted rookie free agent in 2006 who signed with the New York Giants, but was cut after suffering an elbow injury. His off-season or practice squad experience includes stints with the Pittsburgh Steelers (2007-2008), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2008) and most recently, the Detroit Lions (2009).
The Detroit Lions released Lentz the day after the draft in May 2009, and the offensive lineman, who is married to Tricia and has a young son, Avery, was considering returning to school to pursue another career to support his family.
Three months later, not quite ready to give up the dream, Lentz participated in a workout for the Florida Tuskers, a UFL team. Two days later, the coach signed him and he reported for the inaugural season of the league in September 2009. He was in Florida for just two days before he was traded to the San Francisco Redwoods, for whom he played for the 7-week season from October through mid-November, rotating from right to left guard.
Lentz learned in March the coaches wanted to bring him back as a protected player.
"They wanted me on the team so I wouldn't sign with anyone else," he said. "That meant I did well last season, so I felt pretty good. The team relocated to Sacramento and was renamed the Mountain Lions."
There are five teams total in the UFL this year. The Mountain Lions currently have a 1-2 record and compete against the Florida Tuskers, the Las Vegas Locomotives, the Omaha NightHawks, and the Hartford Colonials. Last year there were four teams and next year, the league will increase to eight teams. All players, with the exception of the quarterbacks, earn the same salary, $50,000 this year.
"I think it's a great league, everyone here wants to play," said Lentz. "We're here for the game, not for the money. It's fun to go to practice. Everyone's a character."
The league has been receiving a lot of support, he added, and the fan base is growing.
"From last year to this year, there was a lot of uncertainty," Lentz said. "We were biting our fingernails. Now I am just focused on winning the championship and everything else will take care of itself."
UFL games are broadcast on the cable stations HDNet, Versus, and Game Central. Lentz and the Sacramento Mountain Lions next play the Las Vegas Locomotives at 11 p.m. EDT, Oct. 15 at Hornet Stadium in Sacramento. The game will be broadcast on HDNet. For more information on the UFL, visit www.ufl-football.com.
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville