Of the hundreds of players who have suited up for Wichita’s five professional indoor football franchises since 2000, the ones that made their marks as the best among them did so in different ways that seemed to always lead to the same end – winning games.
The ex-surfer from San Diego who continues to terrorize opposing quarterbacks.
The running back with a sweet name that never seemed to stop scoring touchdowns.
The quarterback who was once one of the nation’s elite prep recruits and helped lead the Wichita Wild to its first indoor title.
The former Wichita West and Pittsburg State star who seemed to always come up with the big play on defense. The receiver from Heights who was so big it never seemed like he took a big hit.
Ahead of the Wichita Force’s Champions Indoor Football playoff opener at the Texas Revolution on Thursday night, here’s a look at the Top 10 indoor football players in Wichita history:
1. Matt Moss, DL, Wild (2011-14), Force (2015) – Moss nurtured his first love, surfing, growing up in San Diego and riding the waves ... until his future got in the way.
“I got too big to surf at one point, so I had to switch it over to the boogie board,” Moss said. “Every day, man, my mom would take my brother and I out to the beach and that was my life until football kind of took over.”
He also understands the fine line between success in the indoor game and getting a break in the outdoor game better than anyone. He’s had tryouts with the Minnesota Vikings and San Diego Chargers, plus a stint in the CFL with the Edmonton Eskimos.
“On this level, the best guys treat it like it’s the NFL,” Moss said. “They keep the approach like it’s their way to get that break, to prove they can play on the next level. I’ve been blessed to play around a lot of guys in Wichita that approach the game like I do. We all still are looking for that opportunity.”
Moss, 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds, spearheaded a run that included a conference championship loss in 2012 and back-to-back CPIFL titles in 2013 and 2014. Moss was the IFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 and the CPIFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 and 2014.
Moss has 38.5 sacks and 60 tackles for loss over the last three seasons, including a league-leading 17.5 sacks in 2013.
“I’ve got a 15-month-old son, Hunter, and I already hope he turns into a defensive lineman,” Moss said, laughing. “I even gave him a good name for it.”
2. Darius Fudge, RB, Wild (2009-10) — The 2009 IFL Rookie of the Year came to Wichita from Western Carolina, where he finished his career at No. 7 in career rushing yards. Fudge, who now plays for the Texas Revolution, set IFL records in rushing yards (1,046) and touchdowns (37) in 2009. Carried the ball a staggering 302 times in two seasons.
3. Donald Payne, WR, Aviators (2005-06), Wild (2007-09) — Payne, 35, played in the IFL All-Star game in 2009 and was as known for his big plays as for how big he was — at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, he was almost immune to big hits and seemed to always find his way to the end zone.
“The coaching staff were the ones who really took me under their wing and helped me understand the indoor game,” Payne said. “Wendell Davis and Morris Lolar really kind of guided me in the right direction.”
Payne, a Heights product, played for Independence Community College and Appalachian State. He spent two years playing for the Aviators and was part of one of the wildest incidents in Wichita’s indoor history. After a 2006 game against the Kansas Koyotes in Topeka, Koyotes coach Jim Green confronted Payne, grabbing him by his jersey. Payne responded with a knockout punch that sent Green to the hospital, earning a suspension for the rest of that season and the entire 2007 season — although after the Aviators folded, he was able to play for the Wild the next year.
“I still follow the team every now and then,” Payne said. “I try to make it to some games. I’m still connected with a lot of guys that I played with.”
4. Rocky Hinds, QB, Wild (2013-14), Force (2015) — The guiding force to the Wild’s back-to-back CPIFL titles, the former four-star recruit and Los Angeles native played for USC and UNLV and had three seasons of indoor football experience with the Omaha Beef and the Bloomington Extreme before he came to Wichita.
In 2013, Hinds threw for 2,117 yards and 49 touchdowns and was named the Most Valuable Player of the CPIFL championship game, a 74-16 win over the Mid-Missouri Outlaws. Hinds followed that up by throwing for 1,960 yards and 47 touchdowns in 2014 on his way to being named CPFIL MVP.
5. Earl Henry, LB, Aviators (2005-06) — The Aviators’ best defensive player in two seasons, the former Wichita West and Pittsburg State star was tough enough to play up front and control the line of scrimmage and fast enough to cover receivers and running backs downfield. He also made a big impact on special teams.
“If there’s a guy that should be on the list, it’s Earl,” said Aviators quarterback Matt Kelly. “He was the guy for us on defense, he was always coming up with the big play.”
Henry was part of the Aviators’ team in 2006, along with Payne, that refused to play in the APFL championship game against the Koyotes after the league’s commissioner unexpectedly moved the game from Wichita to Topeka.
6. James McCartney, DL, Wild (2010-14), Force (2015) — McCartney, a Hesston native, was a two-time KCAC Player of the Year at Bethel in 2008 and 2009 and, at 6-foot-1 and 320 pounds, is almost impossible to move lined up in the middle of the defensive front.
7. Kendrick Harper, DB, Wild (2011-14), Wichita Force (2015) — Harper, a former Butler Community College and Kansas star, is closing in on 50 career interceptions.
Harper led the CPIFL in interceptions in 2013 and 2014 and has eight interceptions this season.
“Kendrick is the real deal,” Moss said. “Harper Island is a real thing ... he goes out and puts guys on lockdown.”
No. 8 Jonathan Beasley, QB, Stealth (2004), Aviators (2005) — Beasley brought much-needed credibility to Wichita’s indoor football scene when he came to the Arena Football 2 Stealth after a standout career at Kansas State and stints with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers and the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders. His presence didn’t manage to save the team however, and the Stealth disbanded after going 8-8 in 2004.
9. Tywon Hubbard, RB, Wild (2013-14), Force (2015) — Hubbard does whatever he needs to do in order for his team to get wins — with 934 all-purpose yards this season, he’s got a chance to go over 1,000 all-purpose yards for the third year in a row, including 1,748 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2013.
10. Justin Montgomery, DL, Wild (2007-10) — Montgomery, a Smith Center native and All-Big 12 pick at Kansas State was arguably the strongest player in Wild history and could play all three positions along the defensive front — essentially a mix of Moss and McCartney. Montgomery was named to the United Indoor Football All-Star team in 2008.
Wichita’s indoor football history
Wichita’s five indoor football franchises:
Wichita Warlords (2000)
Wichita Stealth (2001-2004)
Wichita Aviators (2005-2006)
Wichita Wild (2007-2014)
Wichita Force (2015-)