The Arena Football League and its fan base has been a welcomed source of incredible Nomination selection and well deserved Winners. The 2016 AFL Fan of the Year, Milton Staton, joins a list of outstanding fans representing the Orlando Predators.
How long have you been a fan?
Milton: I have been a fan since June 19, 1987. This is when the AFL debut 4 teams: Chicago Bruisers, Denver Dynamite, Pittsburg Gladiators and Washington Commandos. Denver Dynamite beat the Washington Commandos 48 to 46 in the first game. August 1, 1987 Denver Dynamite wins first Arena Bowl, 45-16 over Pittsburg Gladiators live on ESPN. In 1991 the Orlando Predators makes it’s debut with the hiring of Coach Perry Moss. Herkie Walls was one of the first, initial players to be signed. The first game that I attended was when the Predators played the Tampa Bay Storm. It was an exciting game without a boring moment. Touchdowns were flying all over the stadium by both teams. At this moment I was hooked on watching Arena Football live. After my first experience at the game watching the Orlando Predators, I started to invite my friends to this indoor game. The next couple of years I picked games that I could attend. At this point we decided to start having pregame tailgate parties, which was a blast. Finally in 1993, I was able to purchase 2 season tickets. I and whomever was my guest got to experience exciting classic Arena Football games at the Orlando Arena. Finally in 1998 we won our first Arena Bowl Championship against the Tampa Bay Storm. In 2000 Orlando Predators won at home against the Nashville Kats. I will always be a fan of the Orlando Predators and the Arena Football League. Please keep up the good work and keep our league alive. Thank you.
Why should you be selected winner?
Milton: Since I was a child, I have always had a passion for all sports. However, it became apparent that football was the most exciting sport for me. When Arena Football first started in 1987, people laughed that I had an interest in this indoor football that I would watch in ESPN. They mocked that arena football would never last. However, I continued to watch the four teams. In my heart I wanted to attend the games and cheer the teams on, but living in the North Carolina Mountains and working several jobs did not allow the time to attend. In 1989 I moved to Orlando, Florida and lucky for us the Orlando Predators came to be in 1991. Before the first game I attended, I told my friends about how exciting the sport would be live and in person. The first game I attended was the Orlando Predators vs. the Tampa Bay Storm. It was so exciting I signed up as a Season Ticket Holder in 1993 and have been every year since. Once I met some of the players and became friends, they wanted me to help them get the fans more excited about the game and encourage friends to become Season Ticket Holders. Herkie Walls, Barry Wagner and Webbie Burnett would provide me with flyers about the Orlando Predators to hand out to people, hoping they would get as excited about the game as me and make a commitment to become season ticket holders. I was able to take guest to the games for the first time and when they saw it live, they wanted to get tickets to the game and eventually became season tickets. I found that fans wanted to sit near me as I could explain the rules of the game, so that they would understand the plays and calls. As the years went on, we signed up enough Season Ticket Holders to where we had our little section in the arena. We started taking the bus trips to Tampa Bay and later to see the Jacksonville Sharks. Now I am involved with the “In Your Face” club and the one and only “Prednation” club. I have thoroughly enjoyed my 23 years of being a Season Tick Holder with the Orlando Predators. “Go Predators”
What triggered your passion for sports?
Milton: It is one thing growing up watching sports on television and playing sports, but nothing beats going to the arena and watching a sporting event live. The interaction with the fans and players are undeniably the most exciting and fun times you can have as a sports fan. Growing up in North Carolina, my uncles would take me to Wednesday night drag racing. What a rush it was, to be at the starting line, hearing the sounds of the motors and smell of the fuel. As the cars left the starting line, the adrenaline excitement is indescribable. If this does not get you motivated you have a serious problem. With all the sounds, the smell of rubber burning, the roar of the fans in the stands got my blood flowing and gave me the feeling I was a part of the event. During my college years, I was able to play a little football and soccer. Nothing like being on the field and listening to the student body cheer you on. I was always one of the smallest players, but that only fueled my fire to play harder and not give up. After college I was able to coach Little League Football, coach girls and boys basketball. I also played Semi-Pro Football for about five years, with no compensation. Passion makes you want to participate in sports even if there is not compensation. Since moving to Orlando in 1989, it has been great to attend Orlando Magic, Orlando Predators, Minor league baseball, Tampa Bay Bucs, college football and the college bowl games. I have a fire lit in my heart for sports, that will always be there. “Go Predators”
Favorite sports moment?
Milton: Arena Bowl XII. August 23, 1998. Orlando Predators versus Tampa Bay Storm at Ice Palace in Tampa, Florida. Orlando Predator fans & I took a caravan of buses to the game to support our Predators. We were the big time underdogs and no one gave us a chance over the mighty Storm. It was a very hostile arena. The attendance was 17,222 fans. The Orlando Predators played the best offensive, defensive game, at the time, in Arena Bowl history. Final score: Predators 62, Tampa Bay Storm 31. It was one of the greatest feelings to celebrate our first Arena Bowl Championships with the team on Tampa Bay Storm field. That moment will always be a memorable, special part of my life.
What charities are you involved with?
Milton: Western Carolina University Catamount Club, my alumni. I make donations every year to help with providing scholarship assistance to the student athletics, whom compete at Western Carolina University. Western Carolina University Loyalty Fund, is a fund that makes Western Carolina University education unique and is supported by the Loyalty Fund. Donations to Loyalty Fund is from the alumni, parents and friends. The fund provides opportunities to students who want to make a difference in the world. Debbie Turner Cancer Center. Prednation partners with this charity each year to raise funds. Prednation donates a Predhead to be raffled off and proceeds go to the Debbie Turner Cancer Fund. Prednation, our organization is devoted to reaching out to the community to help in any way to improve the quality of life for the less fortunate. Some other charities we are associated with, are: Fans Against Child Abuse, The Russell Home and Walk to end Alzheimer’s disease. This year, December 5, 2015, we partnered with Seniors First. Seniors First is a non profit organization helping seniors with basic needs. We collected personal hygiene items, games, stuffed animals and other basic need items. The items collected were collected in order to help seniors who are facing financial hardships.
How does your family feel about your dedication to sports?
Milton: I came from a large family, being the oldest of ten. Six boys and four girls. I being the oldest they look up to me to find things to do. My mother loved that I introduced my younger siblings to sports. We played baseball, soft ball, football etc. This increased our bond and kept us out of trouble. This was a good outlet for us as a family, since we lived many miles from town and many times had no transportation. In the 50s and 60s, we had large families and parents encouraged their children to play sports. Also, there were enough relatives to form teams, which started early competition. At our annual family reunions we play, softball, baseball, etc. and the elders love to sit back and cheer us on. Sports has always been a part of our family. It’s great to have siblings that support and share your interest in sports. Makes great family discussions at reunions and holidays.
How important is this award show to you?
Milton: It is a true fact, that without fans to pack the stadiums and arenas, sport events would not be the same. The fans put the energy and passion into the games. Fans invest a lot of money and devotion into their favorite teams. It is nice that the fans are being appreciated for their efforts, along with the athletes receiving their awards. Now with the Awards Show for Fans, it gets more ordinary people involved with the sporting events. With the Awards Show for Fans, it gives people in all walks of life a chance to interact with the hard core sport fans. Fans are representing their respected communities and want to do so with pride for their team. It is great to have sport fans represented in all areas of sports, NBA, NFL, AFL, NHL, MLS, NCAA, Nascar, etc. It’s a pleasure to see all come together to be honored for the sport that they put their heart, soul and money into. What a great feeling to be center stage and having the spotlight on you. It’s nice to share the spotlight with the professional sport stars. It’s nice to get some of the recognition for your contribution to the sports world. I was truly blown away on my first What A Fan awards show at BB King’s House of Blues in Orlando, Florida. It was great to meet the nominees from different sports organizations. I was honored to meet them and interact with them all at the awards show. I look forward to representing my category and sharing with the community what a true fan looks like inside and out. Win or lose, I will always be a 100% devoted fan to sports and the high standards in which the many organizations hold themselves to.
What would winning this award mean to you?
Milton: Every organization I get involved with, I give a 100% of my heart and passion. My mother always told me to do the very best and represent yourself well, so the community will appreciate what you are trying to do. I have received many awards and recognition for working in the community and volunteering for charitable events. I contributed in all the communities I have lived, during my life. It would be great to share the honor with our community and especially with the Orlando Predator organization. People still look down on Arena football and do not respect it as a professional sport in most areas. This would be a good opportunity to get fans excited about arena football and get involved with the sport at all levels. What A Fan award has grown into a powerful organization. It would be fantastic to be in the spotlight of this wonderful event and be able to share this great honor with our community of Orlando. I would truly enjoy representing the What A Fan organization and using the platform to promote how important devoted fans are to the sporting events and how much good the fans can do in their communities. Being the oldest of ten children, it would give my family and I pride to know I could accomplish something this big. It would be a family victory. In closing I always put my best foot forward and represent myself with dignity and honesty in all walks of my life, whether it being a friend, work or working with the community. I will always give my best. Win or lose I will always be a big time Sports Fan, trying to excel to the best of my ability. In 2016, the Orlando Predators organization with their fans will be celebrating their 25th year as an arena football team. This would be a very special award to have, to help us celebrate our 25 years of Predator football in Orlando. Thank you for this opportunity and God Bless.