Staff Photo: Brandon Brigman
Duluth resident Brennen Booth is entering his first season as an assistant coach for the Arena Football Leagues Cleveland Gladiators.
Brennen Booth, 37, has lived in Duluth the last seven years. The Louisville, Ky., native is entering his first season as an assistant coach for the Cleveland Gladiators of the Arena Football League.
Booth has coached at the high school, college and professional level in football, including ArenaFootball2's Mahoning Valley Thunder last season.
Booth is a 1991 graduate of Male High School in Louisville and earned his Bachelor's degree in sports management from Kennesaw State in 2009.
In this latest installment of "Getting to Know ...," Booth talks to sports writer Brandon Brigman about living in Duluth and coaching in Cleveland, Ohio, arena football and college basketball.
BB: So how does an Arena League football coach in Cleveland end up in Duluth during the offseason?
Booth: It's one of those things where a guy that was the offensive coordinator for the Force in 05, Steve Thonn, he got the head job in Cleveland and he called me and said are you interested in the OL/DL job and that's kind of how it works. The head coach is a basically a 12-month contract, the assistant coaches are like six or seven month contracts, so it's kind of a seasonal thing. I still keep my residence here, of course, and then come back.
BB: Other than the field, what's the biggest difference in Arena Football and the NFL?
Booth: The speed of the game, it's actually a lot faster. With it being a small field, your throws are a lot faster, the game is a lot simpler, but some guys that are really good on an 11-man field aren't as good on the small field. Plus the nets add a thing to the game. There's live balls off the nets. It's a lot more throwing. It's literally 95 percent throwing, so a lot more pass protection on offense and rushing on defense.
BB: The Arena Football fans are a different breed, aren't they?
Booth: They are. They are fun though. That's why I like Arena Football. This is going to be my seventh season with arena football and it's a very fan friendly game. You watch it on TV and it's very good, but when you're there and you actually see people catching the balls in the stands and be able to keep them. It's kind of like that rummage for the baseball in the stands, it's fun.
BB: Now I thought the Arena Football League went out of business. What's up with that?
Booth: They did. But I think it's seven original arena football teams from 2008 they came back in and took some of the higher tier Arena Football 2 teams and merged them together. So right now there's 15 teams.
BB: But no Georgia Force?
Booth: I wish. I really do. Actually I was up at the Falcons facility last week because we had an open tryout and I had to borrow some stuff from one of the equipment guys. They still had the nets up. I was like are they coming back? And he was like Nah.' They just leave the nets up.
BB: You coached on the Georgia Force team that reached the ArenaBowl in 2005. What do you remember about that season?
Booth: It was a lot of fun. We had a good team and a good coaching staff. Doug Plank was our head coach and has had a lot of success in the arena game. I think we meshed good as a coaching staff with the group of vets and the young guys really kind of hit. The one thing I remember most was winning the conference championship against Orlando down at Philips (Arena). There was 13 or 14,000 and it was just electric. The one thing I can say, I also coached in the ArenaBowl in 2001 with the Nashville Kats, and we played in Grand Rapids. Arthur Blank treated that like a Super Bowl. He chartered a plane, after the game we closed off ESPN Zone and we had it for five or six hours. It was a first class organization. It was nice. It was a lot of fun. We won a lot of games and went to the ArenaBowl and got to spend four or five days out in Vegas.
BB: You coached at Arkansas-Monticello. Do you still have any Boll Weevils apparel that you still wear?
Booth: (Laughs) I don't. It was lot fun. Monticello is a small place. But have you seen the KGB commercial where you can text in a question? There's one with a Boll Weevil on there. I was sitting there one day and I was like Wow, I used to be a Boll Weevil.' (In the commercial it says) is there anything worse than an aardvark? Yeah, a Boll Weevil from the University of Arkansas-Monticello. I got a shirt.
BB: I know you coach in Cleveland, but have you made it over to Canton for the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
Booth: I have. I took my nephew when I was in Youngstown. It's a nice place. He liked the little X-Box area better than anything. But it was good to see just because you talk about Johnny Unitas and I'm from Louisville and you see Johnny Unitas and guys up from where I grew up. It was cool. They had an AFL little section there and one of the guys that was coaching for me played here in Georgia, they had all these highlights running through and he was on the highlights. It was cool to see. That's the one thing about being in different areas you get to see different things.
BB: So are you a Louisville or Kentucky basketball fan?
Booth: Louisville. Die hard Louisville. I bleed red through and through. It's on my car and everything. It's one of those things, I look at it in the Southeast you got a lot of schools that are basketball and football. Like Auburn-Alabama it's mainly just football. Duke-North Carolina it's mainly basketball. But Louisville-Kentucky is basketball, football, women's basketball, baseball and it's every sport and usually you're one side or the other. It's definitely a lot of fun to be a part of though.
BB: So who do you like in the tournament coming up?
Booth: I got to say, I don't like UK, but I think they definitely have a good shot. They are very talented. I think you will find a team like Duke or Purdue in the 4 to 10 or 4 to 12 range that's gonna sneak up and end up in the Final Four.
BB: Want to go ahead and make a prediction for the champion?
Booth: Oh, I don't know about that. Uh, Kansas. I'll go with No. 1.
BB: You've made a lot of stops, coaching in different areas, do you like that?
Booth: I do because I get to see different things. I'm ready to get settled. I'd like to get settled in Gwinnett County and teach and coach. That's what I'd like to do. It's great high school football in this area. Being here and watching it for a year, you really get a feel for it. I want to be a part of it. It's fun for a while, but eventually it gets old packing a bag.
BB: So you're not trying to pursue any kind of big pro coaching job?
Booth. No. This is kind of like what my girlfriend calls my last hurrah. I love the arena game. If I could make a living with the arena game I would, but it's kind of like I started my career with high school football and I want to end my career with high school football. I like Gwinnett County, I like Duluth, we're settled here, I may not be here forever, but it's a great place to be. I don't want to move anymore.