Wichita Force

Quick Fudge a Wild treat

There's certainly no controversy, no hard feelings that will hamper the relationship, but Wichita Wild coach Ken Matous and star running back Darius Fudge obviously have a friendly disagreement.

At one of the team's first preseason practices, Matous said that a lack of breakaway speed keeps Fudge from playing at a higher level.

Told of that comment, Fudge shook his head and grinned.

"Oh, man," he said. "That's not true. Not true at all. Look at the numbers. Numbers don't lie."

Indeed, Fudge was certainly fast enough to lead the Indoor Football League in rushing yards and touchdowns, and his wheels were sufficient to carry him to rookie of the year honors.

Clarifying his point a few days later, Matous suggested that while Fudge may not have sprinter speed, he is definitely "football fast."

"You'll notice he can turn those corners, and in this game that's hard to do because the field is so darn small," Matous said. "If you can get to that corner and make people miss, you've got some speed.

"And I'll tell you what he's definitely got — amazing quickness."

Speed, quickness — whatever Fudge possesses, his ability to pick up yards on the ground and consistently find the end zone was a major reason the Wild enjoyed the best season in its four-year history.

After a slow start, the team picked up veteran quarterback Dixie Wooten late and reached the United Conference Championship.

With most of its key players back, the Wild opens the Indoor Football League season at home against expansion Lacrosse on Friday.

Fudge, team MVP and a 1,000-yard rusher for Western Carolina in 2006, finished with 936 yards — 124 more than any other back — and 31 touchdowns for the Wild. According to the team, Fudge was the sixth player in indoor football history to rush for more than 900 yards and score more than 30 touchdowns.

With such impressive statistics, Matous could have chosen a number of specific plays to highlight when bragging about Fudge. Matous chose... a block.

In the Wild's 39-37 victory over traditional power Omaha, Fudge had perhaps his best game, rushing for 98 yards and five touchdowns. But it was the job that Fudge did picking up a blitzing linebacker on a scoring drive that impressed Matous most.

"He's an unbelievable pass blocker," Matous said. "It shows he understands the game, understands the offense, and that he's truly unselfish."

Wooten agreed. "Yeah, he saved me many times."

After hearing the praise, Fudge's reaction was almost nonchalant. Running backs, he feels, are supposed to block.

"You know," he said, "I've always prided myself on being versatile and an all-around football player."

The untold story is that Fudge thought he had been recruited to Wichita to play wide receiver. When Matous told him to go the running back spot at an early practice last season, Fudge was surprised but definitely pleased.

"It's worked out," he said.