TOPSHAM — After more than three hours of agility drills, short dashes, catching and defending against a curiously white football, the men who would be Mammoths gathered in a tight clump inside an inflatable dome normally used for Seacoast United Soccer Club practices.

“Be proud of yourselves, fellas,” said James Fuller, the conductor of this open tryout Sunday afternoon. “You put in a good day’s work. I’m happy with it.”

Fuller, 48, enters his 20th season as an indoor football coach. He is in charge of the Maine Mammoths, an expansion franchise in the National Arena League that will play eight home games at Cross Insurance Arena on Saturday nights in Portland between April and August.

Thirty-one men ranging in age from 19 to 30-plus and in weight from 160 to well over 300 pounds signed up for the opportunity to earn an invitation to the Mammoths training camp, scheduled to begin March 19. Many of them paid $60 to register, or $80 if they waited until Sunday.

“They’re all pretty standard,” Fuller said of his umpteenth open tryout for local hopefuls. “You get your guy who’s out of high school, you get your guy who rolls off the couch, and you get your guy who has some accolades and has played some collegiate ball.”

Fuller already has 35 players under contract. They will begin showing up later this week. A few helped out with Sunday’s tryout, including Michael German, a Florida native who played quarterback at Tennessee State and spent much of Sunday afternoon throwing passes to 10 receiving hopefuls.

John Hardy, 25, was on the receiving end of German’s spirals. Hardy grew up in Portland, played at Deering High and the University of Maine and currently teaches health at Lincoln Middle School.

He was among the players who caught the eye of Fuller.

“I thought I’d just give it a shot,” Hardy said. “It’s been a couple years since I played, but I’ve stayed in shape, I still love the game, and to be able to play for a Portland team would be unreal.”

Three kickers hoping for an invitation to training camp waited almost three hours before getting the chance to show their stuff, and one of them, 19-year-old Robert Innis of Windham, put on an impressive display. With seemingly little effort, Innis booted the white NAL balls to the lights hanging from the roof and was on target with most of his placekicks.

“You can clearly the difference in ability between him and the other two guys,” said Steven Barker, a former all-conference cornerback at the University of Maine who is one of Fuller’s assistant coaches. “The one guy is just naturally stroking it and the other guys are trying. His body is just doing it better than the other two guys. It just explodes off his foot.”

Innis is a sophomore at the University of New England. If he signs a pro contract with the Mammoths, he would lose his collegiate eligibility.

Others at the tryout have long since put such matters behind them.

David Higgins, 29, is an assistant coach at Greely High who signed up for the tryout in part as motivation for the teenagers he coaches. Phil Warren, 31, set rushing records at Brunswick High and played at the University of Buffalo before spending the past decade with the semipro Southern Maine Raging Bulls. He brought his 6-year-old son to Sunday’s tryout.

Fuller promised each of those who tried out Sunday a personal email that will include either a contract, an invitation for a two-day workout with the team, or a thank you for coming out and a request to be alert should the team need reinforcements as the season progresses.

Fuller said he would decide by Wednesday which five players will join the other 35 already under contract. A three-week training camp will pare those 40 down to 24 on an active roster with 21 eligible to suit up for the season opener April 7 in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Danny Triplett, 28, drove up from Haverhill, Massachusetts, for Sunday’s tryout. He played for the Boston Blaze last season, a team and an indoor league (Can Am) that are both defunct. He worked out with linemen Sunday but said he plays fullback, his position at Norwich University in Vermont.

Not everyone who worked out Sunday had a realistic chance of playing pro football, but Triplett wasn’t about to rain on anyone’s parade.

“Yeah, there’s some guys who brush off the potato chips and dig in the back of the closet to find their cleats, but hey, we’re all allowed to dream,” he said. “You can’t knock anyone for that.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

[email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH

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