It’s 8 p.m. on Friday, March 18, and Leslie Majors stands in the crowded New Orleans Arena.
The rookie defensive back for the Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League is taking part in his first AFL game against the New Orleans VooDoo.
As he takes in the energy and atmosphere of the New Orleans crowd, Majors is in the process of fulfilling two goals. First, he is returning to the world of professional football, but perhaps most important, Majors is in the process of completing an internship necessary for him to obtain his undergraduate degree.
At Indiana University, Majors was one of only two true freshmen to play in 2004 and even started the final four games of Big 10 play. His game progressed each and every year, culminating in his senior season where he started 11 games opposite current New Orleans Saints cornerback Tracy Porter.
In his senior season, Majors registered 62 tackles with two interceptions and six pass break-ups. His Indiana football career ended with a stellar performance in the Insight Bowl against Oklahoma State. In Indiana’s first bowl game since 1993, Majors had five tackles, a pass breakup and a forced fumble.
He worked hard during the offseason hoping to impress scouts at his Pro Day. After going undrafted in the 2008 NFL draft, Majors received interest from a few teams about joining their camps as a free agent, but one team stood out: the Chicago Bears.
As a born and raised Chicagoan who attended Thornwood High School in South Holland, Ill., Majors was ecstatic to receive a call from the Bears—the team he grew up watching.
Majors left Indiana and started out on his professional football journey, leaving school six classes and one internship short of his degree. With the Bears, Majors was consummating a goal for which he had worked his entire life.
“It started out like a dream,” he said. “I was playing for my home team. I got to meet a bunch of the players that I grew up watching. I was on cloud nine.”
As happens in the precarious NFL, many dreams end. Unfortunately, Majors was released just before the start of the 2008 regular season after spending the entire preseason on the active roster.
Majors kept his head up and continued to train, waiting for his next opportunity. He participated in the Detroit Lions rookie mini-camp in 2009, but didn’t stick. Realizing a career in football might be fading away, Majors took prudent action: He re-enrolled in school in 2010.
“I always had in my mind that I would go back to school,” he said. “But, I hoped it would work around my football career.”
Last fall, Majors completed four classes while continuing to train in case another opportunity in football arose.
And one did.
Majors received an offer to play for the Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League. Not only did the offer allow Majors to get back into professional football, but he also was able to arrange with the team an opportunity to work in their front office as an intern.
Working with the Predators’ front office is allowing Majors to satisfy the internship requirement for his recreational sport management major. After the AFL season ends, Majors will only be two classes away from his degree.
With the Predators’ front office, Majors makes phone calls to potential season ticket holders and helps assist the front office in its day-to-day operations.
“This has been a blessing in disguise for me,” he said. “I am getting to play football again, but also getting closer to obtaining my degree.”
The AFL is a league notorious for high scores, something that never fazed Majors being a defensive player. However, he did have to get used to the different rules in the AFL, which includes one receiver being able to run forward in motion before the snap.
“My first impression was that the AFL was a totally different game,” Majors said. “At first, I thought the angles were going to be different, the routes were going to be different and all. But in the end, it’s just football. I am adjusting pretty well and relying on my athleticism.”
So far, Majors is enjoying his experience. Although he didn’t know any of his teammates before the season started, he said the team is gelling well and that the competition has been strong.
Majors plans on finishing his final two courses as soon as he can, but isn’t sure yet as to what he wants to do with his degree.
“I haven’t chosen exactly what I want to get into in the future,” he said. “We will see how this football season goes and then go from there.”
Nevertheless, Majors knows that having his degree will open up his options immensely.