Likable and outgoing, Darius Fudge wears a grin no matter the situation and probably has more buddies than most. That's a very good thing for the Wichita Wild.
A friendship that Fudge formed during his college days helped the Indoor Football League team land a much-needed impact player on defense.
About a month ago, Fudge was chatting on the phone with Xavier Jordan — they've been friends since they played college ball against each other in North Carolina — when Fudge remarked rather offhandedly that the Wild could sure use a little help on defense, especially at linebacker.
Jordan happens to play linebacker, so it didn't require much to conclude that this was a perfect match for both parties.
In a short period of time, the physical and athletic Jordan has developed into a force for the Wild, which has won two of its past three games, mainly because of an improved defense.
Wichita (2-6) will look to continue its improved play against the Bricktown Brawlers (2-6) tonight in Oklahoma City.
The new-look Wild is coming off its most-impressive victory of the season — a shocking and dramatic upset at Bloomington (then 7-1) that wasn't secured until the closing seconds of the game.
With only two seconds left and Wichita leading 20-18, Bloomington lined up for a 23-yard field goal — a chip shot for Peter Christofilakos, one of the IFL's best kickers.
The situation appeared bleak, but Jordan responded with the biggest play of what had been a mostly frustrating season, shoving a blocker back and extending his arm to block the kick as time expired.
"I had been going outside all game, but this time I just dipped inside, got about a two-yard push and stuck my hand up there," Jordan said. "It felt really good to be able to contribute like that. I've always been taught that special teams can win games."
An indoor rookie from Division II Mars Hill College, Jordan has proven to be a quick study. Although the Wild lost to Omaha in his debut on April 9, Jordan recorded a team-high nine tackles.
The encouraging news for the Wild is that Jordan has played well even though he admits that he hasn't completely grasped the IFL.
"The game's a lot faster, and I'm still learning," he said. "I don't fully understand and know where I'm supposed to be all the time. Coach (Morris) Lolar and coach (Troy) Black are doing a great job explaining things to me. And our defensive line is doing a fantastic job too, leaving me open to make plays."
Before Jordan's arrival, the Wild suffered from a gaping hole at the linebacker spot, a key position in the indoor game. A 6-foot-3, 215-pounder, Jordan has "exactly the perfect body type" for the indoor game, interim coach Morris Lolar said.
"We needed someone like him — a big, strong, quick guy with all the physical tools," Lolar said. "He's picking things up and getting better and better every game."
Notes — New quarterback Phil Staback showed signs that he may be able to solidify the uncertain quarterback spot last when he completed 25 of 33 yards for 190 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Bloomington. Lolar said tonight could be a "breakout game" for the new QB.... Lolar is high on 6-3, 250-pound defensive lineman Matt Morris, a Texas A&M product who signed with the Wild recently.