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Sturdivant lines up for new challenge

A harsh line separates the football experiences of Joey Sturdivant.

No adjective aptly describes the perfection of the first. At Parkview, Sturdivant never lost a game in three seasons as a starter. 45-0. Three state titles.

The second lands in the area of mediocre. At Southern Methodist the Mustangs were 14-13 with him as a starter, but had an overall record of 14-32 in his four years.

That stretch included an 0-12 season his freshman year.

It can't get any further from perfection than winless.

Now Sturdivant takes on a new challenge after being drafted into the All-American Football League's inaugural season by Arkansas, a team based in Little Rock.

"That is what I want to take to Arkansas is what I learned at SMU and the attitude and what I learned at Parkview," Sturdivant said.

The AAFL is a six-team league with all six located in or near college towns. All are in areas populated with college football fans.

Along with Sturdivant's Arkansas team, Alabama will play in Birmingham, Florida in Gainesville, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville, Michigan in Detroit, Tennessee in Knoxville and Texas in Houston.

"This is all played in college towns," Sturdivant said. "I think the atmosphere around it should be a lot of fun. Get some fans to come out to the game that really appreciate football."

There is no team in Georgia.

The AAFL is a college graduate league that offers former collegiate players looked over during the NFL scouting process a chance to play professional football and the hope of earning a workout and a roster spot with an NFL team.

All of those aspects appealed to Sturdivant.

"I like that because it is showing to fans that these are guys that have graduated college, we could go get a job somewhere else, but we love the game," he said. "We are football players. These are a bunch of guys who love football, we aren't about money. We are about playing the game."

Since he graduated from SMU in December, Sturdivant has been back in Lilburn, working out for the AAFL training camp that starts March 15 in Mobile, Ala. It hasn't been work at one of the many athlete trainer centers scattered through Gwinnett and the Atlanta area. Sturdivant works out where he got his start - Parkview.

"I kind of feel still at home there," he said. "They still have that positive attitude."

Since the AAFL hopes to draw fans with the promise of watching players they remember from college, the teams were encouraged and expected to pick players from schools nearest them. But Texas passed over Sturdivant for other safeties, landing him with the second-closest team to the Dallas school in Arkansas.

"I am happy to go to Arkansas, but that gives me motivation," Sturdivant said.

Not that he needed any after being overlooked in the NFL draft.

"I think the scouting for the NFL focuses on how fast and strong you are and that is not really how my game is played," Sturdivant said. "My game is played on the field."

As a senior at SMU, Sturdivant recorded a team-high 109 tackles, more than 20 more than any other player, and forced three fumbles. The numbers earned him Conference USA first-team defense honors by the media and second-team honors from the conference.

But that didn't get him drafted and it didn't satiate his desire to play football.

"I am still a young guy," he said. "I only had four years to play in college, I wasn't redshirted. I felt like I needed one more year to prove myself. This is my prime. I am really thankful to get another shot. I feel like I have a lot to prove."

And he wants to prove more than just making the final roster. Sturdivant wants to have an impact. He has everywhere else he's played.

"Hopefully I can get a starting job (in Arkansas), but I'll have to play lights out to get into a (NFL) camp," Sturdivant said. "I am playing to try to move up and I think that is what this league is about."

SideBar: AAFL FOOTBALL

What: All-American Football League

When: Inaugural season starts April 10

Teams: Arkansas, Alabama, Texas, Florida, Tennessee and Michigan

Web site: www.allamericanfootballleague.com

Noteworthy:

· Parkview grad Joey Sturdivant drafted by Arkansas

· League only allows college graduates

· Games will be played at either university or professional stadiums