An all-league defensive back and a potential successor to those honors highlights the latest player signings for the relaunched Quad-City Steamwheelers.
Dominique McDuffie, an All-Champions Indoor Football performer in 2016 for Bloomington, and speedy Canadian Football League prospect Majique Key are among eight more players signed for the Steamwheelers' training camp, which is scheduled to open Feb. 10.
Head coach Cory Ross also added four receivers, a rookie lineman and a rookie defensive back to a roster that now numbers 26. CIF teams are allowed 35 players in camp but must cut down to 24 for the season, which opens Feb. 25 at home for Quad-City.
"The best recruiters are your players," Ross said about landing 6-foot-2, 205-pound McDuffie, who played with previously-signed Quad-City wideout Daron Clark. "After talking with him, (Clark) found out he was looking for a place to play with a coaching staff with experience at the next level, so this was a perfect fit."
Key is an intriguing prospect because of his mixture of speed (4.28-second 40-yard dash) and size (6-0, 190). The 25-year-old Floridian helped the Vermont Bucks to the American Arena League championship last summer after playing for a pair of title-winning semi-pro teams.
"He can really run and he's real long and rangy, too, with great length as far as his wing span, and for DB's, the longer their arms, the better it is," Ross said.
"He has a couple of CFL teams interested in him. They just want to see him play in a league like ours that more things translate to the bigger field outdoors. Vermont plays in a league where they only run man coverage, and they don't get to mix in different schemes. So that was one of the biggest draw coming to us, getting the chance to show other parts of his game will really help him."
Ross also thinks his newest offensive lineman can climb the ladder. Nathan Locke certainly has the size — 6-8, 315. The California native is finishing up his final college semester at Division II Western Oregon this fall.
"He's very aggressive," Ross said. "And as big as he is, he moves well and there's some things I think we can teach him to get him better."
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Of the new receivers, Maurice Young (5-11, 180) is the most experienced, with eight pro seasons split between the AFL, IFL and CIF. The 33-year-old played last season for North Conference champ Sioux City, which fell to Ross' Omaha Beef in the conference title game.
"We have a couple guys who know how to play and can teach the younger guys the right way," Ross said, pointing also at Clark. "I told him, though, you have to come in and compete, because I'm not promising a job to anyone just because they're a veteran."
Ditto for Matt Shepherd, who played two seasons in Europe before settling down locally. Shepherd was NFL backup quarterback Alex Tanney's top target in college at D-3 Monmouth.
"He thought it was over for him until he heard the Steamwheelers were back," Ross said. "He didn't get to make the tryout, but he kept hounding me to prove he wants to be part of this."
"He's big (6-3, 220). He can run. He can catch. He's got a good grasp of Xs and Os, so picking up plays will be easy for him.
"I'm most excited about his hunger, though. He sends me videos every morning of his 5 a.m. workouts. He came and grabbed a football so he could throw it around with our quarterback. He's getting some local guys we've signed together so they can work and learn the system early. It's exciting to see him be an early leader for us."
Of two rookie receivers added, Davenport Central grad Marcus Terry is a familiar face, while Andre Taylor has the ability to become one, Ross said.
Terry (6-2, 220) also played at St. Ambrose and for the semi-pro Quad-City Raiders. Taylor (5-8, 165) went to DuPage JUCO and D-II Pittsburg (Kan.).
"Marcus is another big, athletic guy for us at the receiver spot," Ross said. "Taylor we got in a trade with Dallas for future considerations. Loved his film. He can be that shifty guy in the slot. He should compete for the spot unless we take the trade offer we have for him."
The Steamwheelers also added Darius Jones (5-10, 170), who earned All-Midwest Conference honors in 2014 for league runner-up Illinois College.
"He's very active," Ross said. "He's not afraid to hit, and that's so huge for me. He also comes out of his break so smooth. He's a rookie who might surprise with how fast he picks up the indoor game."