CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – A reindeer led Santa Claus into a room full of Cedar Rapids Titans fans. He circled the crowded room and bolted back to his stall outside, leaving Santa to take the lists of all the boys and girls in attendance.
Usually the Big Man in Red, tops the VIP list, but Thursday, at the Clarion Hotel, he took a back seat two of the Titans' newest players. The headliners Tuesday including Indoor Football League single-season rushing king Laron Council and former Northern Iowa Panther and Cedar Rapids Xavier graduate Jay Teply.
Council is coming of a season where he rushed for 1,040 for Green Bay, an IFL record and the first indoor back to eclipse 1,000 since Fred Jackson in 2005.
In addition to his rushing mark, he also set IFL records in rushing attempts and touchdowns. The league noticed his season, honoring him with first team All-IFL honors. Off the field, teams also took note, with multiple offers.
"I had quite few teams that I could have went and played for," Council said. "Cedar Rapids, I had history with (Co-owner and general manager Chris Kokalis). It just felt like the move for me at the right time so I kind of went with my guy and here I am."
The Kansas City native wanted to be closer to his family, who couldn't attend a single game last season in Green Bay. Council said they expect to make the trip to Cedar Rapids for every game this season.
When the reach the City of Five Seasons, they'll get to see Council run behind the blocking of Teply. The 6-foot-7, 320 pound offensive lineman earned third team All-American honors while playing for UNI, in addition to being named first team all-conference.
But just like Council, his on-field accolades took a back seat to family.
"That's another great thing about this team is it's in Cedar Rapids," Teply said. "I get to play in front of a lot of family and friends again. And I just know the people in Cedar Rapids, and how much they love football. It's just going to be an exciting atmosphere to play in."
As the introduction ended, the two newbies, were still that, low men on the Titans totem pole. They may have entered after Santa Claus, but he still is big man on campus, especially this time of the year.
Said Kokalis to laughs, "The two new guys have to clean up the reindeer poop."