Running back Keithon Flemming found the end zone plenty of times this past season for the Tri-Cities Fever, scoring 20 touchdowns in Indoor Football League play.
He likes the area. He likes the organization.
So maybe it comes as no surprise that Flemming decided this week that there is no better place to play in 2014, as he signed a contract with the Fever.
“When we went into the final game in Nebraska, (the Fever players) had a long discussion in the locker room,” Flemming said. “For a split second, I was so beat up that I thought I was done playing football.”
But his injuries healed with time off.
“There was no doubt I was going to play with Tri-Cities,” he said.
Flemming was initially cut from the team just before the 2013 season opener in favor of rookie Keola Antolin. But Antolin was injured in that game against Colorado, and Flemming stepped in to become a key rusher for the team, finishing ninth in the league with 407 yards.
“I was still in the process of rehabbing from Achilles surgery,” Flemming said. “Throughout the season I felt more comfortable running and cutting.”
And when this last season ended, Flemming decided the Tri-Cities was where he would live in the offseason.
“In my case, there were a couple different factors,” he said. “First, there’s my girlfriend. But it’s really out of how the community gravitates to us. We’re treated so well here.
“And compared to where I come from (Dallas), the cost of living is so much better here. And because I come from a big city, things really slow down in a place like here. And I like that.”
So Flemming has been busy this summer making appearances on behalf of the Fever — at car washes, business openings and county fairs.
“I just get out in the community and give back,” he said. “It’s always been part of my career — even when I was with the Philadelphia Eagles — is get out and give back.”
Fever coach Adam Shackleford, signing Flemming was a no-brainer.
“Oh absolutely,” Shackleford said. “He’s a good team leader. He’s working hard. Another year away from the Achilles surgery and it’s gonna be better. I’m really focusing on signing some veterans. The injuries we had last year exposed how young we were.”
Shackleford said he’s offered contracts to 16 veterans, “and five or six to rookies. You could see us be a lot more patient this year with rookies.”
w Meanwhile, Fever co-owner Teri Carr said re-signing Shackleford for the 2014 season is nearly done.
“We are just waiting for his contract to be typed up so we can autograph it,” she said. “And I signed the Toyota Center lease today, too (for one season).”
Shackleford said he is just waiting for his advisor — who happens to be his father — to put the details together.
w Ever since Carr made the decision last month to bring the Fever back for the 2014 season, she and her staff have dived in with fans’ suggestions.
They have been using digital media — Facebook, Twitter, etc. — constantly.
They’ve been at community events.
“We’re scheduled up like you wouldn’t believe,” Carr said. “We’ve already had requests for community events. We also looking for events to do.”
And they have dropped some ticket prices for next season.
Season tickets for some seats will be as low as $70 for adults and $63 for senior citizens and youths. Single-game tickets will be as cheap as $11 for adults and $9 for seniors and youths.
“We had some people come in who said they’d make a commitment because of those lower ticket prices,” she said.
w It looks like the Fever’s nine-year mascot, Torch, is going away like the Chinook’s Raz-Ma-Taz and the Posse Pig.
Torch’s costume was damaged beyond repair at last season’s home opener, and it costs too much to replace it.
“Most people didn’t realize we went the whole season without him,” Carr said.
So the team is taking suggestions for a new mascot until Aug. 27. People can send suggestions in via email to email@example.com or call at 222-2215.
Submissions should include the type and name of mascot; as well as name, phone number, and email address of the person submitting. There is no limit on the number of entries. Submissions must not be vulgar in nature or represent actual persons alive or dead, and entries containing those will not be considered.
The person or persons, who submit the type and name ultimately chosen, will be brought on the field for the introduction of the new mascot at the first home game of the season. They will also receive two complementary season tickets from the Fever for their efforts.
“We’ve had some interesting submissions,” said Carr. “A lot are the same. But there’s probably two that we really like.”
So Torch is done?
“If the overwhelming majority say No, we want Torch back, then we’d consider it,” Carr said.
Notes: The league meetings will take place Sept. 10-11, when the league’s lineup should be known. .... The Texas Revolution let head coach Billy Back go and signed Chris Williams, known to long-time Fever fans. Williams used to coach the Odessa Roughnecks, the the West Texas Roughnecks, in both the NIFL and the IFL. He also coached the New Mexico Stars last season and this season.