Former Trinity star Fleming makes football return

Published 12:03 am Tuesday, April 28, 2015

NATCHEZ — R.J. Fleming’s football dream is still living.

The former Trinity Episcopal Day School star and Arkansas State standout recently signed to play in the Champions Indoor Football league as a member of the San Angelo Bandits.

Fleming, who was working as a graduate assistant at Arkansas Tech, said he received a call and had to move fast.

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“The Arizona Rattlers called me in for a workout and wanted me to be there on a Saturday,” he said. “And that was on a Wednesday. So I went out there, worked out, and met a receiver there who was also trying to get into a camp.

“The Rattlers ended up calling me back and I was there for two weeks and they let me go.”

But Fleming’s connection he had made proved to be the difference.

“I was still in contact with Jonathan Haggerty, the receiver I met, and he was playing for a team in Texas,” Fleming said. “He asked me if I was still with Arizona and I said no and that I was still looking for a home. He told me to let him talk to the coach. They eventually called, I sent in film, and they told me to come down.”

So Fleming found himself in Texas, but little did he know, it wouldn’t take him long to see the field.

“It is weird. I got here Thursday around 5:30 p.m. and they next day we were on the road for five hours, got off the bus and started playing,” he said. “I had a walkthrough that morning and then took the field.”

Fleming, who hadn’t seen the field in about a year, said it was great to be back out there and that being a part of a team again is huge.

“I’m really excited,” he said. “I’ve had some workouts, but mostly I’ve been working out on my own. It is a lot different when you are on a team and calling someone a teammate instead of being on your own. I like the team atmosphere and working together for a common goal.”

Fleming also said it hasn’t taken long for him to mesh with his teammates.

“I actually live with 10 of my teammates,” he said. “We have a big team sponsored house, so I wake up and see them every day. We are meshing as a team.”

But just like in anything else, there are tough times.

“One of my roommates just got cut, and it just reminds you that this is such a business,” Fleming said. “For me, I’ve been looking at it as a blessing, because you never know where you’ll be in a minute.”

Playing indoors has also provided a new challenge for Fleming.

“As a receiver it is an advantage because I get a chance to start running before the play,” Fleming said. “The quarterback waves his had so I can go in motion and by the time I hit the line of scrimmage, I’m at full speed, which makes it hard for a flat-footed safety to defend. But on the flip side, the field is only 50 yards long and 30 yards wide, so there isn’t a lot of room to run. You either make one move and get up field or you get hit. Well, you’re going to get hit.”

Ultimately, Fleming’s mind is still reaching for a bigger stage — the NFL.

“I just want to take things step by step,” he said. “As a player, I have a lot of growing up to do and still have some adjusting. My biggest goal is to play in the NFL, and that is never going to leave my heart. I know it is baby steps and I’ll go to another arena league team or go to Canada before I get to the league, but I’ll do what it takes.”