The Massachusetts Pirates hosted the Orlando Predators at the DCU Arena in Worcester on Saturday, April 27, desperately needing a win. After dropping the first two games of the season, both against Carolina, there was no way around it and the Pirates responded well, heading into the final minutes of the game with a comfortable 36-12 lead.
But in arena football, where everything happens so fast, a 24 point lead sometimes is not safe enough and with 5:20 minutes left to play in the fourth quarter, the Predators had the ball on their own 20 yard line and went deep. Orlando's quarterback Kyle Israel threw a long, beautiful pass near the corner of the Pirates end zone for Rob Brown, who was running at full speed, about to catch a touchdown and keep the game alive.
Enter Lashard Durr. The 23-year-old Defensive Back was one of the players who recently signed with the Pirates, after the season had already begun. This was his first week with the team and admits he was not really sure that he is going to play. Still, his number was called and Durr thought to himself "Why not? Let's go!"
Orlando quickly tested him with that long pass, "So I just did what I know how to do best." If you look at the video, (available on Durr’s bio page at masspiratesfootball.com) you can see, or actually won't see Durr, because he literally appeared out of the blue, catching up with the Predators' receiver and breaking up the pass with a tremendous athletic play. "It was good getting my mojo back."
He really needed that play, to prove to himself that he could do it and to be sure he truly belongs. He was extremely close to playing in the NFL, but after four preseason games and six tackles with the Indianapolis Colts, he was part of the final cuts just before the regular season began. He went back home to Gulfport, Mississippi, practiced as hard as he could and remained focused and patient. "Yes, at some point I was getting afraid that no one would call me again. It got hard at times", he admits.
Technically, no one called, but Pirates President and General Manager, Jawad Yatim, sent Durr a direct message on Instagram. "He said he saw my highlights and that I was a good coverage corner and good one-on-one defender, so I would really help the team. He asked me to come here (Worcester) as soon as possible."
Durr usually does not check his direct messages, but this must have been destiny, or something like it. He quickly arrived in Worcester and like many others, found out that arena football is a whole new world. "I can use some of my techniques here, playing indoors, but the field is much smaller so I have to be focused and patient again and learn what to do. Coach Payton has been explaining the game to me."
While Coach Payton is doing a great job, there are some things that cannot be taught, like that play against Orlando. This was the natural talent that gave Durr the opportunity to play in some huge games during his time a student-athlete at Mississippi State University. "Playing in the SEC is the hardest thing. It's like playing in the NFL. You have to be ready every day and every game. If not, opponents can break you apart."
In 2017, he was part of the Bulldogs team that won the TaxSlayer Bowl (Gator Bowl), beating Lamar Jackson's Louisville squad 31-27: "That was my first championship ring. Now I want to get another with the Pirates", he says. "It was a blessing and a big opportunity playing in the bowl games."
He got to Worcester at a good time of the year, as the weather is getting nicer and he enjoys spending time with his new teammates, going to places together and doing some team bonding off the field, but admits, "I love this city, but sometimes I'm still cold here. I'm a Mississippi guy. I come from a warm place."
If he keeps making acrobatic plays, it will be warm, at least inside.
The Massachusetts Pirates are members of the National Arena League (NAL). The Pirates play all home games at the DCU Center located at 50 Foster St. Worcester, MA. 01608. For more information on the Massachusetts Pirates please call (508) 452-MASS (6277), email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.masspiratesfootball.com. Single game tickets are available online at ticketmaster.com or the DCU Center Box Office. For group outings please call 508-452-MASS (6277). Follow the Pirates on Facebook at Facebook.com/MAPirates on Instagram @mass.pirates, as well as Twitter @mass_pirates.