Dusty Kain, a 2006 Simpson graduate, works at Scheels sporting goods store, a typical job for someone his age.
Several times last summer, however, he had to clock out a little early to make it to his other job on time, one that is not as typical. Kain would leave Scheels and go straight to Des Moines’ Veteran’s Auditorium to suit up for the Iowa Barnstormers football team.
Kain, a wide receiver, just completed his first season with the Barnstormers, which belongs to the independent Arena Football 2 league. The Prairie City, Iowa, native was invited to try out for the team last spring and after impressing the coaching staff, was offered a contract.
“At tryouts last year he was head and shoulders above the other receivers,” Barnstormers Account Executive Aaron Roland said. “He has the speed, quickness and hands to play arena football and determination as well.”
Roland, also a 2006 Simpson graduate, said that Kain was always a valuable contributor on special teams, but it was the second half of the season in which he really emerged as a wide receiver. Simpson Athletic Director John Sirianni recruited Kain to Simpson and was close with Kain during his time in college. Sirianni never doubted his abilities or mindset, which is why Kain’s success is not surprising to him.
“When you look at him, he was a very, very tough kid mentally,” Sirianni said. “His ability to compete is very special. When you combine his athletic skills with his competition and his desire to compete, it doesn’t surprise me.”
During his freshman year at Simpson, Kain didn’t see much action on the field, which motivated him to get better. He then exploded as a sophomore in Simpson’s spread offense to become a Second Team All-American. He went on to set numerous records for the Storm, earning First Team All-Conference three years in a row. Kain was also a four-year starter on the Simpson baseball team, coached by Sirianni.
“Dusty was one of the best athletes we’ve ever had at Simpson College,” Sirianni said. “He was an outstanding receiver and a big play guy. He’s one of those special types of athletes that you could ask to do a lot of different things. He was an absolute joy to coach, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to get to know him.”
For most collegiate athletes, graduation typically means the end of organized athletics. That is why the 5’10”, 175-pound Kain is grateful to still be playing football, and making some extra cash out of it. Every AF2 player has the same one-year contract that pays $200 a week, with a $50 bonus if the team wins. After each year, every player is a free agent.
Kain said the AF2 is far from glamorous, but it’s a chance for Kain to play professional football, even if it is his second love. Kain’s favorite sport has been baseball since he was four years old. He even played in an independent professional league in Kansas City after graduating from Simpson. He was released after a few weeks, leaving a bad taste in his mouth.
Kain used that as motivation to work harder at football. The season runs from April to August or September. The team practices three times a week for two hours. Kain considers it more laid-back than college, but it still took some time to adjust to. The biggest change from college to professional for Kain was understanding that football is now a business.
“If someone is not doing their job or performing, they are released and someone new is signed,” Kain said. “In college they just take you out and put in a younger guy. It’s a different attitude. If you’re not performing, you’re not going to stick around.”
As for stepping it up towards the end of the season, Kain viewed it as a combination of hard work and catching a break.
“It was a lot of luck and opportunity and things falling into place,” Kain said.
Kain credits the Simpson coaching staff during his career for developing him into an elite football player. Being an undersized receiver, Kain had to rely on running efficient routes to create space for making plays. His route running is what stood out to the Barnstormers coaches and initially got him a look in tryouts.
Kain’s future is yet to be determined. His offseason will be filled with working out and working at Scheels, other than that it’s up in the air.
“I’m going to play next year,” Kain said. “I might as well do it while I can and see where it takes me. After that, I don’t know.”