Football Goes North

May 31--Seppa Nicholas-Silvera of Kenai put his career as a hazardous-chemical handler on hold.

Justin Dailey of Anchorage has to wait to be a firefighter.

Why? To play football for the Alaska Wild.

Each player has sacrificed something to fulfill his dream of playing professional football in Alaska.

"I've got boys that play basketball. My daughter plays basketball," said Tufaga, 31. "I've taken away time from them, and work, to do this. But they've all supported me."

At 22, Dailey is young enough to dream big. He wants football to take him as far as possible. Right now, that means the Intense Football League.

Regardless of being miles away from the NFL, the indoor football league near the bottom of the professional football pecking order gives him a chance to earn experience while earning some cash.

Best of all, it's given the Alaska players an opportunity to play in front of family and friends.

"In high school, I remember thinking, 'Man, that would be so awesome to play at Sullivan,' " said Dailey, a 2002 Bartlett graduate who played next door at Anchorage Football Stadium.

"I never thought that dream would come true."

Neither did Nicholas-Silvera.

But now that indoor football has arrived in Alaska, the 24-year-old has put his passion to play football ahead of his professional plans as a product handler at Univar USA, an industrial chemical distributor.

"That was probably the biggest sacrifice, but they're letting me stay. My job is very good to me," said Nicholas-Silvera, a 5-10, 230-pounder.

"I'm losing a lot in that to gain in this, but this is my passion. This is my dream."

These guys might be doing what they love, but being a player in the Intense Football League doesn't necessarily pay the bills.

Another sacrifice is living off just $225 per week -- the weekly salary in the IFL. Players also receive a $35 bonus for each win, but the Wild are 0-7.

Most Alaska players juggle football, work and family schedules so they can play with the Wild.

Tufaga, a 6-foot, 230-pound linebacker, is a licensed tractor-trailer driver. He usually puts in eight hours at his job before practice. He's off on game days.

Going from the everyday grind of his job to the gridiron has given the former Dimond High and Weber State player a shot of adrenaline. It's made him feel young again.

"It's nice to have a change up in life," said Tufaga, the 1992 Alaska high school Defensive Player of the Year. "I'm doing something I love to do."

Dailey, at 6-2, 250 pounds, is a warehouse worker for Pacific Movers when he's not doubling as a linebacker for the Wild. He has plans to be a firefighter, but he's focused on his football career right now.

"I'll take it as far as I can," he said. "That's why we're all here -- to try and take it a step further."

At the same time, though, Dailey is happy being at home and playing in front of the people who grew up rooting him on.

He had nearly 30 family and friends at last week's home game and said family from as far as Florida are expected to make the cross-country trek to visit and watch him play.

"My brother always makes fun of me because I tell people that it's my dream to play in front of my family," Dailey said.

Part of the charm with the Wild is that they feature nearly a dozen Alaskans.

In addition to Tufaga, Dailey and Nicholas-Silvera, the Wild have other locals, most of whom played high school here, like Mao Tosi (East), Donny Delaney (Bartlett), Anthony Shelton (Dimond), Siufaga Taufi (West), Antonio Lolesio Jr. (Dimond) and Keith Perkins (Palmer).

Having Alaskans on the Wild is critical, Tufaga said, because the fans can easily identify with the players they are cheering.

"It's nice to have the guys from out of state, they help us out a lot. But if it's a community thing the fans will support it more," Tufaga said.

"It's just been awesome to say you played professional football in Alaska. I never saw the day that we would have a team."

Daily News reporter Van Williams can be reached at or 257-4335. To see more of the Anchorage Daily News, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2007, Anchorage Daily News, Alaska

Van Williams

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