The Knoxville Civic Coliseum is home to a new team that can bring football to Tennessee a little early this year — football with an attitude that brings a totally different atmosphere. It’s the Knoxville Nighthawks.
As an expansion team in a newly-formed Professional Indoor Football League (PIFL), the Nighthawks are new to Knoxville, and for those who were in attendance for the home-opener against the Richmond Raiders, it was an experience to remember.
“It was unlike any football I have ever seen,” Jamey Vick, senior in hotel, restaurant and tourism management, said. “Players were bouncing off walls like it was a hockey match, and the atmosphere was great, fans yelling at players, players yelling back. I will definitely be going to more games.”
Unlike regulation football in the NCAA or NFL, the PIFL follows some different rules. The teams play on a 50-yard field and there are only eight players on offense and defense at one time. There are three down linemen, a quarterback, a fullback and three wide receivers. On any given play, one of the three wide receivers can start in motion in a dead sprint towards the line of scrimmage.
There is no running out of bounds because there are padded walls around the entire field, and the teams use this to their advantage. In the home-opener, several players were knocked over the wall either into the bleachers or onto the concrete that surrounds the field. These hard hits amounted to around 20 personal foul calls, and when the final buzzer went off, players and coaches had to be separated from the opponents and escorted off the field.
Like the football games that most are used to, there are field goals and extra points, but if the ball is kicked wide and makes it into the stands, the first fan to grab it takes it home as a souvenir. There are also many play-breaks during the game where cheerleaders come out dancing and throw out T-shirts and other prizes for fans to take home.
“I was trying to get a ball the whole game,” Matt Mabry, junior in marketing, said. “It was unlike any football I’ve ever seen in Knoxville, and they serve beer, so it was obviously a good time.”
The Nighthawks also have a few names that Vols fans might recognize. Former Volunteers playing for the pro team include kicker Alex Walls, linebacker LaMarcus Thompson, defensive back Derrick Furlow and offensive lineman William Brimfield.
 It’s not the football team Knoxville is used to, but it does bring an atmosphere that can get one back into the football spirit.