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Dane County Hawks Skill Evaluation/ Open try-Outs

Madison adds another semipro football team
Dane County Hawks will play home games at Lussier Stadium in summer 2009 sports — 2/27/2009 4:31 pm

No one has accused Todd Dillinder of thinking small when it comes to developing his new semi-pro football team in Madison.

"We're trying to accomplish what Curly Lambeau did way back when -- a community owned team," Dillinder said Friday.

No, he isn't planning to challenge the Green Bay Packers anytime soon.

Rather, what Dillinder hopes to provide through the Dane County Hawks is an outlet for football players who ran out of options after high school -- or a bridge for those interested in getting noticed by the likes of a pro indoor team, such as the new Wisconsin Wolfpack, or even a more established fellow outdoor team such as the Madison Mustangs.

"There's plenty of opportunities," Dillinder said. "Our thing is getting our players good enough to where they get invites to those other places, rather than have to plunk down $65 to try out."

The Hawks will compete in the Mid-States Football League and play their home games at Lussier Stadium on the east side. They have 29 player applications in hand and aim to build a 60-man roster by the time of their first exhibition game on April 25 against the Northwest Wisconsin Wolverines.

The regular season runs from mid-July to the end of August. The MSFL, which has been in existence since 1999, is slated to field 14 teams this year in the four-state region of Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, with many of those teams concentrated in greater Chicago.

They will conduct tryouts on March 7 at noon at Oregon Jaycee Park, 275 N. Perry Parkway, Oregon. There is no tryout fee but participants are asked to pre-register through the franchise's Web site. For more information, call (608) 312-2119.

In addition to Dillinder's investment in the Hawks, he has secured some sponsorships; some of the start-up costs will be offset by team fees.

Dillinder's own tackle football career was limited by a series of injuries; he stopped playing competitively after breaking his foot in his sophomore year at Milton. He dedicated much of his life to overseeing area auto racing ventures, but then got back into football when his nephew started the semi-pro State Line Hawks in 2006.

He broke away from that team last season to lay the groundwork for the Dane County Hawks, and has worked hand-in-hand with Jim Foerster, a long-time coach of the East Side Sharks youth football league.

"It's just another opportunity for guys to play," Dillinder said.