Making a place to play

Published 9:19 pm Saturday, July 30, 2011

Bionic: Norfolk’s DeAngelo Branche set many offensive records as a running back at Norfolk State and is now training with Bionic Sports. Branche scored 37 touchdowns and rushed for 3,678 yards as a Spartan.

CHESAPEAKE — Kevin Allen is helping football players get to the pros, even as far as NFL rosters, as the owner of Bionic Sports.

Allen, who coached at Nansemond-Suffolk for two seasons, including NSA’s 2009 state championship team, before resigning at the end of last season, is carrying the ball further by starting the Gladiator Indoor Football League, an arena football league in Hampton Roads.

The league will be for players looking to keep their professional football prospects alive. Players won’t be paid.

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“Each team will represent a city,” Allen said. Suffolk is one of the teams in the works as the first campaign is set to start in January.

As the NFL lockout ended last week, three of six pro prospects being trained by Bionic Sports signed training camp deals with NFL teams. Dante Barnes, from Norfolk State, signed with Washington. Norfolk State’s Calton Ford signed with Cleveland. Hampton’s Brandon Peguese signed with Philadelphia.

NFL opportunities are the ultimate goal of course, but Allen’s view for the new local indoor league is more about the whole spectrum of pro football.

“The league is going to be a showcase for talented guys so maybe they’ll get noticed by an Arena Football League or Canadian League team,” Allen said.

Players with college eligibility remaining won’t be eligible. Allen planned the league schedule strategically for January and February since the Arena League and Canadian League start in the spring.

“It’ll be a developmental league. This is a top recruiting area, from high school to college and from college to the pros, and a lot of kids get the chance to move on,” Allen said, “but a lot of guys are not getting attention. For a lot of kids, this might open a door for those who might get missed.”

Take a kid who spends most of his college career as a second-stringer, said Allen. “You have guys out there who didn’t get a lot of playing time, but they’re actually very good.”

Allen calls the United Football League and the incoming Virginia Destroyers “a blessing” and “huge.” The Destroyers’ inaugural season is set for this fall.

A UFL team in the area might or might not lead to more pro chances for local hopefuls. Allen sees the Destroyers and the UFL as an expanding pool for pro prospects to work their way into, and all the more motivation for his new league.

“Dante Barnes was about to sign with the Destroyers, if the (NFL) lockout had stayed in place,” Allen said.

Since Barnes is moving on to the Redskins, there’s one more player who might get a chance with the Destroyers, which might give one more guy a chance on an Arena Football League squad.

The first tryout for the Gladiator Indoor Football League is set for Aug. 27. More information can be found on

Aside from the players looking to impress, Allen envisions the league helping coaches and referees who want to advance up their respective ranks.

Allen’s business, with its 4-week-old gym in the Greenbrier area of Chesapeake, is equally diverse. Allen loves football, but Bionic Sports has fitness boot camps for men and women, Zumba classes and training for an athlete in any sport — notably including Hampton native and Indiana University alum Ara Towns, a sprinter aiming for Olympic Trials and the 2012 London Olympics.