With the confetti from Super Bowl LV having fallen in Tampa, a new professional football league awaits. This Saturday, the Fan Controlled Football League will launch its inaugural season on Twitch at 8 p.m. ET.
At the helm of this new fan-first experience is commissioner Ray Austin, an alum of the Chicago Bears, New York Jets and the XFL. Beyond his career as a defensive back, Austin is known for his modeling and acting career, including roles on Empire and Chicago P.D.
Austin, 46, brings a dynamic energy and passionate voice to the FCF, which allows fans to participate and vote for plays through a custom app. Through Twitch, the league will also offer unique camera perspectives, as well as various game hosts, including a feed of commissioner Austin.
In our conversation . . .
- Austin talks about his leap from pro football player to actor: “The reason I got into acting [was] because Jim Brown, O.J. Simpson were like superstars to me . . . I was like, ‘Wow, so they played football and they ended up being on TV because of that?’ I was like, I love it. That's what I'm going to do.”
- Austin explains the genesis for the idea that eventually led to him co-founding Fan Controlled Football: “I was literally at a semi-pro football game watching one of my buddies . . . where he had his phone with him. I was just like, ‘Man, what is your coach doing?! Man, tell your coach to run a sweep, tell him to run a play-action pass, man.’ And I had to go talk to the team after the game. So I'm just saying, ‘You know what? Let me get your phone number, coach . . . and I just texted him, ‘Run a sweep, run Cover 2.’’ And when it happened, I was just like, ‘Oh my goodness . . . I got something here!’ ”
- Austin shares the story of embracing a potential competitor as his co-founder: “[Tony Paris] said, ‘Man, I love your idea, but I’ve got a guy that you might want to meet . . . he's working on the same thing.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, snap!’ Then I got nervous. Like, ‘Oh man, somebody's working on this? What's going on? OK. Who is this guy? What does he do?’ You know? And he's like, ‘Man, why don't you just go meet him?’ So I talked to him on the phone and flew up and met Sohrob Farudi, the CEO [of FCF].”
- Austin discusses what makes the FCF unique: “It's basically a live video game. We are trying to construct a live video game, allowing fans to literally control actual athletes. And, and I'm not just saying on the field as just calling plays, but we're talking about, you know, that sport escapism, everybody always wanted to, you know, call that play . . . so why don't you say or do something about it then?”
- You can follow Ray Austin on Twitter (@rayaustin36) and Instagram (@rayaustin36), as well as the FCF (@fcflio and @fcfl).