Albert Lea lineman signs contract with Sioux City BanditsPublished 1:36pm Saturday, November 23, 2013
Defenders across the Southern Plains Football League can breathe a sigh of relief because Matt Mirowski, an offensive lineman for the Albert Lea Grizzlies, won’t be plowing them over anymore.
Mirowski signed a contract on Nov. 10 with the Sioux City Bandits of the Champions Professional Indoor Football League.
“I’ve watched him take out the best linebackers in the league — just knock them silly,” said Grizzlies head coach Stephen Piper. “I’m excited for him, and I want him to succeed at the next level.”
After playing football at Mason City High School, college ball at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, and three years with the Grizzlies, Mirowski continued to climb the ladder with hopes of reaching the NFL.
“That’s the dream,” Mirowski said. “It’s not out of the question. These leagues are scouted by NFL scouts.”
The Bandits have NFL connections. Most notably, Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson played two seasons for the Bandits before he was signed by the Bills in 2007. In his third NFL season, Jackson rushed for 1,062 yards. Both of his next two seasons in Buffalo, he carried the ball for more than 900 yards, and he remains on the roster. Last season, the Bandits finished 10-2 overall with former Cincinnati Bengals running back Marlon Lucky playing wide receiver.
Mirowski received offers from three teams in the league before he made a decision, he said. He chose the Bandits over the Lincoln Haymakers in Lincoln, Neb., and the Kansas Koyotes in Topeka, Kan.
“From day one, I had my eye on Sioux City,” Mirowski said. “I made contact with coach (Erv) Strohbeen. He got back to me and showed interest, but I also wanted to keep my doors and options open.”
Playing with the Grizzlies showed Mirowski he needed to add bulk to his frame to dominate on the line, he said. He did so by adding more than 100 pounds of muscle.
“I weighed about 225 pounds for my first start with the Grizzlies,” Mirowski said. “I was nowhere near where I needed to be. I’m close to 350 now.”
Determination and hard work spurred Mirowski on to his opportunity with the Bandits, Piper said.
“He’s in the gym seven days a week, and he’s on a specialized diet that nobody wants to eat,” he said. “He could be sitting on the couch wishing he’d have done this or that, but he decided to step up and give it a shot.
Mirowski is 31 years old, and he didn’t play football for most of his ’20s. He said his critics helped fuel his drive to compete on the gridiron.
“I don’t know how many people probably snickered behind my back, and I know people told me to my face that I’d never get a serious shot because of my age,” Mirowski said. “If you listen to people who tell you that you can’t do something, then you won’t. You just need to get out there and do it. Live your dreams.”
After his post-college football hiatus, the Grizzlies organization gave Mirowski that chance.
“All we did was give him the opportunity to play,” Piper said. “He developed, put together some film and brushed some rust off.”
The Grizzlies will have a big gap to fill on the offensive line next year. However, Mirowski said he may be able to suit up for next year’s first exhibition game against the Tri-State Buffalos.
“He’s helpful when he’s at practice,and we’re going to get him to the exhibition game,” Piper said. “Whether he’s in pads or not, I don’t know. We’d love to have him take the field one more time and knock some people around for the Grizzlies one more time.”
While Mirowski and Piper have been members of the Grizzlies organization, they said they’ve become close.
“When he came and walked on the field, I was excited because we desperately needed linemen,” Piper said. “That’s all he was. What happened over the years is that he’s become a good friend of mine. He leaves big shoes to fill.”
To fill Mirowski’s spot, Piper did not disclose the new player’s name, but he said a lineman from the North Iowa Bucks, another team in the Southern Plains Football League, joined the Grizzlies and has been performing well in practice.
“It’s bitter-sweet,” Mirowski said. “I want to leave them with somebody who can handle the position and make it like nobody left.”
Mirowski’s football resume:
High School: Mason City, Iowa (4 years)
College: Buena Vista University (1 year)
Albert Lea Grizzlies (3 years)
Height: 6 feet 4 inches
Weight: 335 pounds
Lifting max: bench, 375 pounds; squat, 545 pounds; dead lift, 540 pounds