Second chances in sports are hard to come by.
Most athletes don’t enjoy the opportunity to play after they leave the high school ranks, especially in football.
For members of the Georgia Wolves, they’re getting that second chance, and they’re getting all the benefits that come along with being on a team again.
Chad Randolph and Tim Cross started the North Georgia Mountaineers as a semi-pro or minor league football team 14 years ago.
Since then, Cross and Randolph have gone their separate ways and the program has changed its name to the Georgia Tigers, Georgia Panthers, Georgia Heat, Georgia Bandits and now the Wolves.
Randolph, head coach of the Wolves, also acts as the president of the National Developmental Football League, which the team plays in.
For Randolph, the purpose of the team is quite simple.
“Giving young men a second chance to play football again and let them know nobody has given up on them,” he said. “Some people go play (junior college) or prep football, which is just another year of high school, basically. I give them a year and try to get them up out of here and play college ball.”
Randolph said this season is the first year he’s had anybody as young as Max Taylor, who just graduated from White County last year and is 18 years old. The Wolves also have guys playing into their 40s.
Those older guys are playing for recreational purposes, according to Randolph.
Korentheus Bailey will be joining the Wolves for his first season when the schedule gets underway on March 12.
Bailey, 26, played football and graduated from East Hall High. Now he coaches at Chestatee High and teaches at the Lanier Career Academy.
He decided to join the team after seeing an advertisement pop up regarding tryouts. The goal is to be able to get a shot at the Arena League, Canadian Football League or even the NFL.
“I just want to see what I can do, put up some numbers and try to help the team win a national championship,” Bailey said.
Thomas Trahan, 29, works with a medical records and billing copying service. Others work in warehouses or own their own businesses.
“We’ve got everything from cops to school teachers,” Randolph said.
But, despite the differences in ages and occupations, Wolves football has been very successful.
In its first season as the Panthers, the team went 14-1 and won the 2006 Stars Football League. Then, as the Heat, the team won the 2007 Deep South Football League. In 2013, the Bandits won the NDFL championship. In 2014, the name was changed to the Wolves, and the team again took the NDFL championship.
“Everyone outside of football has their separate lives,” Trahan said, who plays multiple positions on the team. “They have their families and whatnot. Some have families and some don’t. Once it comes time to step back on that field, everyone is focused on one thing and one thing only — getting back to that ‘ship.”
Not only are there differences in ages and jobs, the players come from different parts of the state. Some come from Cobb County, some from Atlanta, some from Monroe or Athens. Some even come all the way from Macon to play ball for Randolph.
Trahan played his high school ball at Peachtree Ridge High in Suwanee, and now lives in Oakwood.
“We pull (players) from all over,” Trahan said. “Some teams are just local. Those guys drive all the way up here, that’s loyalty. Nobody is getting paid to play. These guys are paying out of their pockets to do all this stuff.”
Trahan has been with the team since 2005, with the exception of missing the 2009 season due to a stint in the Army, then sat out the 2014 season. He decided to start playing again because his 5-year-old son loves to watch him play, and because it’s a great stress reliever.
“It’s something to where you can just step out there and, whatever you have going on stress wise, forget about it,” Trahan said. “You can focus on the game.”
Trahan also said he sees other benefits of the program.
“It’s a great second-chance opportunity for young men who do come from troubled homes or not-so-good backgrounds, it’s a second chance for them to do better,” Trahan said. “It keeps them off the streets. It keeps them out of trouble. It keeps them off drugs. It’s a positive hobby.”
Trahan said it also gives some of the guys a sense of family if they don’t have family to fall back on.
“Some don’t have as much family and friends as others,” he said. “I’d rather a young person, or any person period, turn to a team, a positive team, for family and friends.”
The Wolves haven’t been able to nail down an official home field just yet. Randolph is trying to work with Hall County and Gwinnett County to see where they’ll be able to fit, but he’s hoping to get to play at C.W. Davis Middle School in Flowery Branch.
The team will travel to Gadsden, Alabama, to face the Alabama Trojans to open its 2016 season March 12. The game will kickoff at 2 p.m.