Phoenix, Ariz. – Next season, the Arizona Rattlers will be entering their 25th season in the Arena Football League (AFL). Only two other teams have been with the league longer, the Tampa Bay Storm (1987) and the Orlando Predators (1991). In that time, the Rattlers have become the most dominant team in the league, appearing in a league best ten ArenaBowls, winning five.
The 25th season is a huge milestone for the team, and leading up to the new season, we will be looking back to see how the Rattlers got here. First, it is important to remember some key dates throughout the Rattlers history.
Part 1: the 90’s
September 11, 1991: Suns owner Jerry Colangelo receives formal approval of his application to the Arena Football League by the league’s Board of Directors.
October 10, 1991: Former Arizona State and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Danny White is named as the team’s first-ever General Manager and Head Coach.
December 6, 1991: The Arizona Rattlers officially receive their name. Jan Curry-Dillingham of Phoenix submits the winning entry as more than 5,000 entries poured in during the team contest. “Arizona Rattlers” appeared on over 200 entries. Curry-Dillingham received two season tickets for life as the grand prize winner.
March 28-29, 1992: The Rattlers conduct their first-ever tryout camp. More than 350 participants attended the camp at WestWorld of Scottsdale. Head Coach Danny White and his staff sign 11 players from the camp.
May 21, 1992: The Rattlers play their first-ever game, a preseason contest against the Cincinnati Rockers in San Diego. The Rattlers lose, 55-31.
May 30, 1992: The Rattlers make their official AFL debut, losing on the road to the Albany Firebirds, 62-35. Roy Hurd scores the first Rattler touchdown on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Steve Belles.
June 13, 1992: The Rattlers make their home debut, defeating the Sacramento Attack, 51-36, before a sellout crowd of 15,505 in the America West Arena. The game is the first sporting event in the arena, and the first victory in Rattlers’ history.
July 25, 1992: The Rattlers close out their home schedule by becoming the first team in AFL history to sell-out its entire home schedule. The Rattlers defeat the San Antonio Force, 54-31.
April 23, 1993: Former Phoenix Cardinal running back Stump Mitchell and former Arizona State quarterback Paul Justin are signed.
July 30, 1993: The Rattlers finish their second season 7-5 and earn their first-ever berth into the AFL Playoffs.
August 8, 1993: Win first-ever playoff game, at home, over the Charlotte Rage, 56-49. Marks the twelfth consecutive sell-out in the America West Arena, and the only AFL team to sell-out every home game for the second straight season.
August 13, 1993: The Rattlers sweep league awards. Bryan Colangelo earns Executive of the Year, Danny White earns Coach of the Year, and Hunkie Cooper takes Most Valuable Player honors.
August 12, 1994: The Rattlers earn a home playoff game and the fourth seed after a wacky final second win over the Las Vegas Sting. Zeph Lee recovers an errant Luis Zendejas field goal in the end zone to win 51-46.
August 18, 1994: Rattlers win second first round home playoff game in a row over the Charlotte Rage, 52-24.
August 27, 1994: Rattlers get revenge for a regular season loss, defeating the Albany Firebirds, 40-33, to earn the franchise’s first ever trip to the ArenaBowl.
September 2, 1994: The Rattlers stun the Orlando Predators, 36-31, in ArenaBowl VIII to capture the franchise’s and the state’s first world championship.
May 12, 1995: The Rattlers win a heart-stopping 43-37 overtime season opener versus the San Jose SaberCats and former Rattlers defensive coordinator Todd Shell.
August 6, 1995: Rattlers head coach Danny White becomes only the third AFL coach to win 30 games in a 41-40 thriller over San Jose, securing a home playoff game for the third year in a row.
August 13, 1995: The Rattlers lose 56-52 to the Iowa Barnstormers on a 31-yard pass with two seconds remaining. The first round loss is the first in franchise history.
June 28, 1996: The 500,000th fan, Skip Ulman, walked through the turnstile into the “Snake Pit” in a game against the St. Louis Stampede. The Rattlers enjoyed over 98% of the America West Arena’s 15,505-seat capacity through its first five seasons.
July 3, 1996: Head coach Danny White captures his 40th win in a blowout, 74-48, over the Texas Terror.
July 13, 1996: Rattlers win a regular season franchise record nine games in a row with a 51-45 win over the Connecticut Coyotes before losing to Tampa Bay the next week. The game also marks a 7-0 undefeated season at home for the first time in franchise history and the 23rd sellout at the America West Arena.
August 10, 1996: The Rattlers beat the Orlando Predators, 65-48, in the first round of the playoffs. It was the fourth straight win over their rivals, dating back to ArenaBowl VIII. It ties the all-time series at 4-4.
August 16, 1996: The Rattlers lose to the Tampa Bay Storm 55-54, failing to convert a two-point conversion with nine seconds remaining. They are denied a trip to the ArenaBowl in the last second for the second time in four seasons.
August 25, 1996: The Arizona Rattlers receive the 1996 AFL’s Commissioners Award. The award recognizes the best team organization for its achievements both on and off the field, in the business aspects of operating a team.
June 21, 1997: Rattlers sellout the newly expanded America West Arena, i.e. the Snake Pit, for the first time as 16,923 fans watch the Rattlers down the Florida Bobcats 58-41.
June 27, 1997: The Rattlers win their eighth straight game with a 47-40 win over the Milwaukee Mustangs giving Danny White his 50th win of his AFL coaching career.
July 31, 1997: Rattlers close the 1997 season with a franchise best 12-2 record earning home field advantage throughout the playoffs with the number one seed for the first time in team history. A last second 31-yard field goal by Anthony Brenner seals the 38-36 win over the New York CityHawks.
August 16, 1997: Rattlers host a semifinal playoff game for the first time defeating the Tampa Bay Storm for the first time since 1994 with a thrilling 49-46 overtime game. Rattlers QB Donnie Davis replaced an injured Sherdrick Bonner and connected with Randy Gatewood for the winning score in overtime. The win earns the Rattlers the right to host the championship game, ArenaBowl XI, for the first time.
August 24, 1997: Rattlers are awarded the 1997 Commissioner’s Award for an unprecedented second year in a row. Rattlers’ Vice President Gene Nudo receives the league’s Executive of the Year Award.
August 25, 1997: ArenaBowl XI – Danny White orchestrates a 55-33 domination of the Iowa Barnstormers with MVP quarterback Donnie Davis giving the Rattlers their second World Championship. Hunkie Cooper earns Ironman honors with a kickoff return and an interception return for touchdowns. The win also gives the Rattlers a 15-2 mark, the best in franchise history. An over-capacity crowd of 17,436 fans sets a Rattlers record in the Snake Pit to watch the game.
May 3, 1998: Rattlers beat the Iowa Barnstormers in the Hall of Fame Game in Iowa, 61-40. The weekend included the induction of the first class of Hall of Fame inductees.
July 16, 1998: Offensive Specialist Calvin Schexnayder breaks the AFL record for most receiving yards in a season with 1,701 with two games remaining. The Rattlers beat the New York CityHawks, 62-34, holding them to a franchise record-tying 7 points in the first half.
August 2, 1998: Calvin Schexnayder pulls the trifecta, leading the league and setting records for most receptions (136), most yards (1.982), and most touchdowns (44, tied mark) receiving in a season. The Rattlers end the season with a dramatic win over Nashville, 59-55, and the second seed in the playoffs.
August 7, 1998: The Rattlers play and Danny White coaches their 100th game. It happens to be a first round playoff game against the Houston ThunderBears and a 50-36 victory for the Rattlers.
August 15, 1998: The Rattlers lose to eventual ArenaBowl XII champion Orlando Predators, 38-33. It was the fourth time the Rattlers had been knocked out of the playoffs with less than 0:10 remaining in the game.
August 7, 1999: The Rattlers win their first-ever day game at AWA, notching a 34-30, first-round playoff win over Nashville. The Saturday matinee was televised nationally on ESPN.
August 11, 1999: Following a stint with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, Rattlers’ all-time leading passer Sherdrick Bonner returns to quarterback the team in its semifinal playoff game at Albany.
August 14, 1999: Rattlers Gene Nudo earns his second Executive of the Year award for his work within the Rattlers organization.
May 5, 2000: Rattlers quarterback Sherdrick Bonner became only the fifth player in AFL history to pass for 15,000 yards or more during his career.
May 20. 2000: FB/LB Bob McMillen became the Rattlers all-time leading rusher when he surpassed Bo Kelly’s record of 437 yards.
May 20. 2000: The Rattlers hold the Albany Firebirds scoreless in the first half for the first time in Firebirds history.
May 27. 2000: Rattlers quarterback Sherdrick Bonner joined the 15,000-300 club when his seven touchdown night gave him 301 career touchdown passes.
June 10, 2000: Rattlers head coach Danny White moves into sole possession of second place in regular season victories with his 76th win.
June 10, 2000: Hunkie Cooper sets the record for touchdown returns with his 17th career touchdown return, eclipsing George LaFrance’s old record of 16.
July 22, 2000: With a 58-50 victory in Iowa, the Rattlers become only the seventh team in league history to go undefeated on the road in a season.
August 17, 2000: Rattlers Vice President Gene Nudo receives a record third Executive of the Year honor for his hard work in establishing excellence within the organization.
August 17, 2000: Rattlers receive fifth consecutive Commissioner’s Award given annually to the team organization that excels both on the field and off, in the business aspects of operating a team.
August 17, 2000: Rattlers receive the AFL Support Staff of the Year Award recognizing the hard work and efforts put forth by the teams athletic trainers, and equipment manager.
For more information, head to azrattlers.com.
About the Arizona Rattlers
The Arizona Rattlers have won five ArenaBowl championship games and are proud members of the Arena Football League (AFL). ArenaBowl XXIX marked the team’s tenth appearance in the Championship game, winning in 2014, 2013, 2012, 1997 and 1994. For tickets, call 602-514-TDTD (8383), or visit www.azrattlers.com.
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