The Cincinnati Rockers Arena Football League Team

March 12, 2020 2 Comments

Cincinnati Rockers 1993 team photo

The Arena Football League (AFL) was founded in 1987 and by the early ‘90s had grown from four to 12 teams. Franchises were awarded to all manner of business people who saw the opportunity to become football owners at a relatively low cost. Among them was Ted Gregory, who owned the famous Montgomery Inn in Cincinnati.

1992, the Gregorys were awarded an expansion team which they named the Rockers. One of their first tasks was finding a starting quarterback, which turned out to be someone very recognizable to fans in Southwest Ohio: Art Schlichter. The former Ohio State University star, whose pro career was derailed by a horrific gambling problem, had seemingly gotten his life sorted out and had just spent two seasons with the AFL Detroit Drive. He’d led that team to two postseason appearances, including an Arena Bowl championship.

In hindsight, it was apparent that Schlichter was never able to conquer his demons and the Drive found an easy way to unload him on the expansion Rockers. The Gregorys, however, knew all about Art, good and bad. One of Schlichter’s teammates at OSU was a family friend of the Gregorys named Joe Lukens, a former Moeller standout. Though the star quarterback had struggled off the field, the Gregorys decided to give him a chance-- with eyes wide open.

“I’ll never forget, my brother Tom called me at the Boathouse,” Dean Gregory recalled on Episode 35 of The Cincy Shirts Podcast, “and said ‘hey we just hired Art Schlichter. Whatever you do, don't lend him any money, and don’t cash any checks for him.’” 

Twenty minutes later, Art was at the Boathouse meeting with Dean. “He was probably the greatest salesman I’ve ever seen,” Gregory said. Within minutes, Schlichter managed to get a check cashed for $1000. “He came back the next day and repaid me the money. I thought, ‘this is a set-up. He’s going to cash a bigger check next time,’ but no.”

On the field, Schlichter picked up right where he’d left off in Detroit and led the Rockers to a 7 and 3 record and a playoff berth. He also started doing some radio work in town. Attendance averaged over 13,000 a game, near the top of the Arena League. “I’d been working in the restaurant since I was twelve,” Dean Gregory said. “It was the first time I was able to take Saturday nights off since the mid-sixties.”

Other notable players on the Rockers roster included former Bengal Ira Hillary, who went from obscure kick returner to Arena League wide receiver phenom. Career Arena Leaguer Bruce LaSane was also on the team and helped propel them to the playoffs.

Even though they lost in the first round to the Tampa Bay Storm, the Rockers seemed to be looking at a bright future in the Queen City. However, Schlichter could not kick his gambling habit and decided not to return the following season, hoping instead to focus on curing his addiction. He was replaced by former Notre Dame star, and NFL journeyman, Blair Keil. 

“The second year wasn’t the same,” Dean Gregory lamented. “They tried to make it a sport. It was more like big-time wrestling at first, but when they tried to make it a sport, it just didn’t work.” 

The team’s record dropped the following season to 2 and 10, and with its attendance. Following the 1993 campaign, the Gregorys pulled the plug. “There’s a little Rockets watch on display in the trophy case at the Boathouse,” Gregory added, “and in my dad’s handwriting it says, ‘my two million dollar watch.’”

2 Responses


August 06, 2020

thank you for your forum/blog

domains available


July 29, 2020

hello thank’you for making this forum
Faucet Directory

i sell this domains!!!!
send me email with offer

Leave a comment