Arizona Rattlers fullback Odie Armstrong. (Courtesy of Rattlers/Yeung Photography)
The Arizona Rattlers are nearing the end of their 2012 season, with players like Odie Armstrong helping lead them toward the playoffs.
Being a running back in the Arena Football League is at times a thankless job. Most don't get a lot of carries and the ball often flies over your head in a league built on up-tempo offense and throwing the ball down the field.
This is how Odie Armstrong makes his living. At least until the Arizona Rattlers get close to the goal line. Then, when his number is called, it's look out for the bruiser, as Armstrong attempts to use his 260-pound frame to bowl over defenders into the end zone.
No wonder all that pass blocking isn't a problem. The payoff, when possible, is 12 touchdowns, though Armstrong has just 52 carries for 164 yards this season.
"I love the contact. I never shy away from contact," Armstrong said this week before the Rattlers headed off to the inland Northwest to play division rival Spokane. "The speed of this game, the rules. I just love how this league is.
"My role is to block for Nick (Davila, Rattlers QB)," Armstrong said. "Protect him, keep him standing up while he throws the ball."
Armstrong has a role in the offense. It's to be an extra offensive lineman, for the most part, and keep the opposing defense honest every now and then with some carries. He was a featured back in high school and college (Northwest Oklahoma State), then had to gain weight for his new position, fullback, in the AFL.
"No problem. I don't mind eating," Armstrong said. "I had to get used to not running the ball. I don't mind the role I've got. I just make the best of when I do get the ball. Just help out wherever I can."
The Rattlers are 11-3 and have won six straight games with four left in the regular season. They're looking to get back to the ArenaBowl, the league championship game they hosted last season but lost in the final seconds.
"Losing with two seconds on the clock last year, it was a long offseason for us," Armstrong said. "Guys came back hungry. We know what it takes now to finish the championship game."
Armstrong ran for 17 touchdowns and 295 yards last season. When the season's over, he'll return to his home in Oklahoma and coach and teach, taking time to play some golf and go fishing.
Armstrong is huge Peyton Manning fan, even to the point of switching NFL allegiance to Manning's new team, the Denver Broncos, from his former team, the Indianapolis Colts. Armstrong named his daughter Peyton after Manning.
"I know it's bandwagon, but I gotta roll with Peyton," Amstrong said. "It's just amazing watching him play."