Dean Dalton is the Senior Vice President of Football Administration for a new football league, Major League Football, that kicks off this spring. The league is the latest in a number of similar leagues that have tried to sustain interest with rabid fans as an adjunct – not a competitor – to the NFL.
Dean is wise enough to know the odds are long for success, but the league is doing things in a way that should endear it to potential players and the agents that represent them. It all starts with salaries — $2,500 per week, which is about five times what some indoor leagues pay – but also includes the coaches and administrators running the league.
“We had 15 ex-NFL coaches at our tryout in Massillon, Ohio, and I introduced our coaches to the athletes in the tryout, and as I introduced them, I got more and more impressed,” he said. “I said, ‘Hey guys, the Hall of Fame is about six miles away. Raise your hand if you’ve helped coach someone with a bust in the Hall.’
“Of the 15, only two didn’t go up.”
That’s an impressive pedigree, but Dalton is no slouch himself. A veteran NFL coach, he spent eight seasons (1999-2007) on the offensive side of the ball with the Vikings, finishing out his career as the team’s running backs coach before an ownership change meant head coach Mike Tice and his staff were dismissed despite finishing with a 9-7 record in ’05.
During Dalton’s time with the Vikings, he got to spend a lot of time with QB Brad Johnson, who’s more or less the poster boy for players who play major college football but still need a bit more development before they’re ready for the NFL. Johnson began his career at Florida State on the basketball team before ascending to an off-and-on role as a starter for the Seminoles. It wasn’t until he got to the NFL, however, that he really got a chance to mature: it was during the 1995 offseason that he spent with the London Monarchs in the now-defunct World League of American Football (WLAF).
“I have a great relationship with Brad because I was in Minnesota before he left, then went to Washington and Tampa Bay, where he won a Super Bowl,” Dalton said. “Then I was with Tice when we brought him back, and in 2005, (starting quarterback) Daunte (Culpepper) went down and Brad came in and we won 7 out of the last 8, and had a heck of a run. He was great. I got to experience Brad on two ends of his career, I used to tease him that there were kids that still had a No. 14 jersey in their closet even though he’d been gone 7-8 years
“We also teased him about his Florida State career, too. His bride was the sister of the offensive coordinator at Florida State when Brad was the QB, and that is none other than (Georgia head coach) Mark Richt, so we teased him that over in London you didn’t have to marry the offensive coordinator’s sister to get the starting job, and neither did he in Minnesota. But he’s got a beautiful family, they’re a great couple, and he’s a terrific guy.”
Dalton said Johnson’s time developing his game in a league other than the NFL was a major part of his success, and one reason he went on to win a Super Bowl.
“He elevated his football IQ to the highest level (by playing in the World League),” Dalton said. “He was literally the coordinator on the field, a super-intelligent football player, and as a QB, he provided this sense of calm and focused leadership. During meetings, he’d tell a story, and get everybody tuned into the story, and the story would take us where we’d need our focus that week. What the World League did was give him the ability to polish his football skill set while enhancing his leadership traits.”