BILLINGS- After a seven year absence, indoor football returns to Billings on Thursday night.
The newest entry from the Champions Indoor League shares a familiar name, the Billings Outlaws. SWX's Chris Byers takes a look at the evolving history of arena football that now makes its return to the Magic City.
On Thursday, the latest chapter in Billings indoor football returns as the newly formed Outlaws open against the Lone Star Pitbulls in a preseason matchup. There's no way to know how successful the league or the team will be, but one thing is certain. Head Coach Brian Schmidt said he came to Billings from Spokane for no other reason than to win championships.
"I said from day one I took this job, we are coming here to win championships. That's why I brought in the players that I brought," Schmidt said.
This franchise follows the wildly successful Outlaws of old. The franchise that won two indoor championships playing in front of a packed house at MetraPark.
"You know the Outlaws used to be legit. They used to win. It's something that brought our community together and it's something we've missed for the past 10-14 years. And we have the potential to bring that back and to this community, it means a lot," said Outlaw's defensive lineman Dylan Donahue.
It was the tornado that came through Billings and literally ripped the roof off MetraPark arena, home of the Billings Outlaws in 2010. They played the remainder of their games at the Billings SportsPlex including the playoffs and the championship. After that, it ended the season and effectively ended the Outlaws franchise.
So now can history repeat itself? It all started in 2000 with the Billings Thunderbolts. Mitch Donahue, the former Billings West graduate that went on to play for Wyoming and in the NFL with the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers was the head coach of that team.
Fast forward 22 years later, and his son, Dylan, is now a member of this current Outlaws team. Dylan has NFL experience as well playing two seasons with the New York Jets. He knows the family history with indoor football and is ready to pay it forward this spring.
"It's a chance for me to sit back and help younger guys see what I didn't see when I was their age. I like that aspect of it a lot," Donahue said.
Bottom line, of course, comes down to performance on the field and that means quality players. Coach Schmidt starts that conversation by saying the Outlaws boast what may be the best defensive line in the league, and they start a record-breaking quarterback, Charles McCullum, to lead the team through its inaugural season.
"We got the all-time leading passer in arena football history that beat Chris Dixon's record. I think we will be very good offensively. I don't think we have a weak spot I think we have places we can get better. Overall, I feel pretty good right now," Schmidt said.
So there you have it. The 2022 edition of indoor football all starts on Thursday at 7:05 PM at MetraPark. The regular-season opener is on the road next week against the Sioux City Bandits.