Aidyn Huddleston, 13, wants to see some big hits and a lot of touchdowns.
Huddleston, a seventh grader at Twin Spruce Junior High, thinks the new Wyoming Mustangs professional indoor football team will do a lot of good for the Gillette community. That’s what brought Huddleston and his dad, Michael, to Dungeons and Dugouts on Friday night.
The Mustangs, an indoor arena football team that will start its inaugural season in the Champions Indoor Football League (CIF) next month, hosted an autograph signing event where locals could buy season tickets and meet five of the players on the roster.
“It’s exciting,” Michael said. “We’ve never had anything like this in Gillette. I came from Houston where I was able to go watch the Oilers or the Rockets and teams like that, so it’s kind of nostalgic for me to be able to do this.”
Aidyn, who plays football for Twin Spruce, said watching the Mustangs will be a lot different than the high school football games he’s used to seeing Friday nights during the fall.
“It’s definitely different than high school football,” he said, pointing out these players are older and have much more experience. “They’re definitely going to be a lot bigger.”
Former Camel now a Mustang
One of the players at Friday’s meet-and-greet was a familiar face for some. Former Campbell County High School standout running back Vijay Pitter was one of the players seated at the table.
“It feels good to be kind of representing my whole county pretty much,” Pitter said, adding he’s excited to continue playing football in front of his hometown fans. “We’re bringing this new type of ball playing to the county, so I’m kind of happy.
“I know I probably have some fans out there and whatnot, and moving to a new city, that would have been brutal.”
Pitter was preparing to join the Gillette College Pronghorns soccer team after he graduated from CCHS, but all athletics aside from the rodeo team were cut for budget reasons last summer.
“I’m a soccer guy,” Pitter said. “I can’t really play soccer right now so I came to play for (Mustangs managing partner) Keith Russ.”
While Pitter is looking forward to being back on the football field, he’s even more excited to get out of the walking boot on his right foot. Pitter said he was thrown from his motorcycle while attempting to do a wheelie and hurt his heel.
“The Wyoming wind caught me in mid-air and threw me over about a week and a half or two weeks ago,” Pitter said. “I’ll be alright. I’ll be OK before the season starts.”
Blessed to keep playing
Eriq Swiftwater, a wide receiver and tight end for the Mustangs, lives in Rapid City, South Dakota, and attended Black Hills State University in Spearfish. The opportunity to sign with the Mustangs organization and continue his football career is something he’ll always be grateful for.
“It’s a blessing, first of all,” Swiftwater said. “It’s a blessing anytime you can continue to play the sport that you love. It’s one thing to go to college and do it, but to keep playing after that just makes me grateful to the fullest.”
Meeting and interacting with fans and the community Friday night gave Swiftwater and the other players an opportunity to see the people he’ll be entertaining when the season starts next month. While it’s only the team’s first year in Gillette, Swiftwater knows how much people in the area love sports.
“Community support is everything,” Swiftwater said. “That’s what gives this team such a great sense of enthusiasm and pride about itself. We’re going to allow the community to be a big part in us and us to be a big part of the community.
“That goes the distance for both us and the community.”
On average, an arena football player in Gillette will earn $600 to $700 a week while receiving free housing and full health insurance, Russ said.
The Wyoming Mustangs will open the season at Cam-plex with a home game March 27. The Mustangs will have six home games and five away games in the regular season.
“We’re super excited,” Michael Huddleston said. “Obviously, since the (Gillette College) Pronghorns were taken out, we haven’t had anything to do. It’s just super exciting for me and my family.”