New Coach, Old Name: Columbus Destroyers Revive Arena Football
Arena football is coming back to Columbus, with the Destroyers returning to Nationwide Arena for the first time since 2008.
The Arena Football League has had a rocky history. In 2009, the league cancelled its season and declared bankruptcy. The Destroyers weren’t part of the league when it relaunched the next year.
But now, Ron Jaworksi, Arena Football League executive and former NFL quarterback, says the sport is growing and they want Columbus to be a part of it.
“We have incredible expansion plans—incredible expansion plans—because people love football,” Jaworski says. “And of course, we know they love it in Columbus. So we are going to grow this into something special.”
Matt Sauk, the team’s new head coach, spent eight seasons playing arena football and another half dozen coaching. Most recently, he served as head coach of the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles from the Indoor Football League.
Sauk says he is excited at the prospect of leading a team in Central Ohio.
"I believe it's the third most NFL players come out of this state,” he says. “That's simply amazing. And it's not big like Florida, it's not big like California or Texas, this is just a football town."
He says the thing that separates arena football from other versions of the sport is how close fans are to the action.
"You know, players are high-fiving, they're flying into the stands, footballs are hitting fans in the head, because it's like, it's just crazy,” Sauk says. “It's fast-paced, it's awesome, and that to me is the great thing about arena football."
Jaworski believes there is a ready fan base in Columbus, and he’s blunt about his standard for success.
"Are you kidding me? It's Columbus, Ohio,” he says. “The home of Ohio State University, the mecca of college football, high school football and football in general. If we can't succeed in Columbus, we can't succeed anywhere."
The team’s first home game is May 18 at Nationwide Arena.