Six interceptions, 37 and a half tackles and ten passes broken up in nine games are impressive numbers for any defensive back in the National Arena League. What makes those numbers more impressive for Kiante Northington of the Massachusetts Pirates is that he had never played a down of arena football before this season.
A standout player at Butler Traditional High School in Louisville Kentucky, Northington received a partial scholarship to Eastern Kentucky. He played his way into a full ride. He knew he had arrived in a breakout game against Kentucky his junior year.
“I had an interception against them and a couple of passes broken up. I think that showed that I could play against anybody,” he said.
He finished his college career in 2016 as a second team All-Ohio Valley Conference performer. He had an impressive pro day but afterwards his phone didn’t ring.
“I found that to be very surprising and disappointing. I figured I had the film. I’m a little undersized but I ran a pretty decent 40 around 4.5 and I thought I could play against anybody. I was willing to prove it. I at least wanted to get invited to a mini camp but it didn’t happen.”
Northington was not going to leave football behind. If he couldn’t play, he would coach at Butler High.
“My old defensive backs coach became the head coach. He gave me the opportunity to coach his defensive backs. We actually did pretty well this year reaching the State quarterfinals. I always had an interest in coaching. My opportunity came a little sooner than I thought, but I took my chance with it and I liked it. Being younger and closer to the age of the players I was coaching made it a little harder but I think they listened to me because I had just played in college and I had been to the place where they want to go,” he said.
Northington feels current coaches face a more difficult task when it comes to reaching players due to the amount of distractions those players can face.
“Yes I think it’s kind of tough these days because there is more social media. I think kids today are a little more hard-headed and harder to reach. It takes a little time but they get it.”
Regardless of the challenge, he enjoyed being able to touch players’ lives every day.
“You never know what a kid is going through at home, so being able to impact their lives, see them smile and just making their day better was enjoyable,” he added.
While teaching others, he still never gave up hope of finding his own place to play.
“I figured I’d get the chance to play somewhere. I had to be patient. I knew my time was coming. I kept on working out, kept on grinding and it ended up paying off as now I’m here.”
But did he ever think his chance would come in the arena game?
“No, not really. I didn’t know too much about arena football but Orlandus Harris, who was formerly with us (the Pirates), had been playing. He went to EKU a little before me and he helped me to get here so I appreciate that. I wouldn’t turn down this opportunity.”
For Northington this is his first taste of playing indoors and he says this brand of football is quicker than the outdoor game.
“This game happens a little bit faster. You also have somebody running at you if you’re playing the high motion as the offensive player is running from ten to 15 yards back.”
The 5’9” 185 pound defensive back may have arrived unheralded, but he knew he could hold his own in this league from day one.
“I trusted the process. Even when I wasn’t on the team I kept working hard. I trusted my technique so I thought from day one that I could come in, compete and be the best that I could be and a good defensive back.”
Having seen every receiver in the league and five different teams, which players challenge him the most?
“There are some good receivers in this league but I think we have the best receivers and I go against them every day in practice. There are some great athletes in this league and I respect every opponent I play against. I continue to work on my craft and do what I have to do.”
The Massachusetts Pirates are members of the National Arena League (NAL). The Pirates play all home games at the DCU Center located at 50 Foster St. Worcester, MA. 01608. Pirate Nation Season Ticket Memberships for the 2018 season are now available. Pirate Nation Memberships start as low as $78.00. To become a Pirate Nation Season Ticket member or for more information on the Massachusetts Pirates please call (508) 452-MASS (6277), email email@example.com or visit www.masspiratesfootball.com. Single game tickets are available online at ticketmaster.com or the DCU Center Box Office. For group outings please call Kara Mancini at 508-929-0125 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow the Pirates on facebook at facebook.com/MAPirates on Instagram @mass.pirates, as well as Twitter @mass_pirates.