The CFLA office in North Bay Village is dormant. Shortly before Chambers left Miami, the tape on the answering machine was changed to say that the league was once again accepting applications for players and coaches in Florida and across the U.S. Two weeks ago, the phone was shut off entirely.
On March 8 Chambers's wife began moving her belongings to a smaller and less-expensive apartment in Miami. That same day, the Miami Thunder played its first home game, trouncing Tampa 37-6. About 200 people showed up to watch, and offensive lineman Ike Dixon's mother and general manager Rudy Lorie's wife sold hot dogs to raise money.
Dez Jackson, who lost his shot at a scholarship after breaking his hand in a fight, ran back a punt 70 yards and did a flip into the end zone for the game's first score. "Everybody's coming together," he said on the sidelines. "We're coming together like a family."
Quarterback Al Grier threw for three touchdowns. Shawn Hale nailed a 42-yard field goal. Tony Millelo scrambled into the end zone on a 30-yard punt return. "This is great," he said, grinning. "My first fucking touchdown!"
Before the game, Tony Rodriguez, whose engagement and troubles at home led him to drop out of high school after his junior year, waited anxiously near the entrance to the field. At practice, he had said he wanted to play in front of his mother and sister but he didn't know if they would show up. Later, during the game, he was beaming. "I got my wish," he said, pointing to the small grandstand, where his mother was sitting with his sister and his girlfriend. "My family is here."
"I'm very proud," says Rodriguez's mother, Gloria Sabaluco. "I want him to do what makes him happy. He loves football."
THE MIAMI THUNDER plays its home games at Belen Jesuit Preparatory School, 500 SW 127th Avenue. Tickets for this Sunday's 1:00 p.m. game against the Jacksonville Blazers cost five dollars and can be purchased at the gate. For a complete schedule of home games, call the team at 361-8119.