Played in Amway Center
in Orlando, Florida
|Arena Football League (1991–2016)
|Team colors||Black, red, gold, white|
|Owner(s)||David A. Siegel|
|General manager||Michael DiJulio|
|League championships (2)|
|Conference championships (1)|
|Division championships (9)|
|Playoff appearances (23)|
The Orlando Predators were a professional arena football team based in Orlando, Florida and member of the Arena Football League (AFL). The team was most recently owned by Orlando Predators LLC, a company owned by David A. Siegel, and played its home games at Amway Center.
The team was founded in 1991 as an expansion team of the AFL. The team advanced to the playoffs 19 consecutive seasons between 1992 and 2011, becoming the ArenaBowl champions in 1998 and 2000 during that span. The team suspended operations after the 2016 season. A new organization led by former Predator Kenny McEntyre obtained the Predators branding and relaunched the team in the National Arena League for the 2019 season.
There was interest in arena football in Orlando as early as 1987, with a group looking to place an AFL team in central Florida in time for the 1988 season. But more than three years would go by until the Orlando Predators franchise was finally secured by Davey Johnson, Tracy Allen and Mike McBath on February 14, 1991. The Preds began play that same year but missed the playoffs, the only time the club would do so until 2012. In just their second season in 1992, they advanced to ArenaBowl VI, only to fall to the Detroit Drive, who won their fourth title in five years. Annually among the league-leaders in attendance, they qualified for the playoffs in 18 consecutive seasons, the longest streak in the original AFL. One noted administrator for the Predators was Pro Football Hall of Fame lineman, Jack Youngblood, who came to the Predators in 1995 as vice-president and then later, president of the organization. He was with the team through the 1999 season.
For much of their existence in the original AFL, their head coach was Jay Gruden, younger brother of prominent National Football League coach Jon Gruden and who would go on to coach the NFL's Washington Redskins. Jay Gruden was formerly an outstanding Arena Football quarterback, leading the Tampa Bay Storm to four ArenaBowl championships, and then served one year as offensive coordinator for the Nashville Kats prior to becoming head coach of the Predators. Jay was the first quarterback in the AFL Hall of Fame. Orlando won the ArenaBowl in 1998 and 2000 under Gruden's coaching. He then attempted a comeback as a player, but subsequently returned to coaching following the death of his head coach replacement, Fran Papasedero, in a car accident.
The Predators were one of the premier franchises in the history of the original AFL, and had a rivalry with Tampa Bay, who moved to Tampa the same year the Predators formed. They met twice in the ArenaBowl, with Tampa Bay winning in 1995 and Orlando winning in 1998. The rivalry, nicknamed the "War on I-4" after the interstate that connects the two cities, intensified when Gruden took over as Orlando's head coach.
Orlando and Tampa Bay each lasted longer in their markets than any other AFL franchise have, As of 2019[update]. The Predators were unique in that they had played in their previous venue, Amway Arena, for 18 seasons in the AFL, longer than any other team. Amway Arena was often nicknamed "The Jungle" during Predators games due to the hostile environment from the fans, harsh smoke that filled the arena during the players intro, and a Guns N' Roses song which "welcomed" other teams. They shared Amway Arena with the Orlando Magic of the NBA and the Orlando Titans of the NLL. The 2010 season was the Predators' 19th and final season at Amway Arena. The team moved to Amway Center, the new arena in Orlando, for the 2011 season. A Predators game was the final sporting event ever performed at Amway Arena.
The team's mascot was a monster-like human named Klaw who looked much like the alien (Predator) from the Predator films, with only different coloring.
The Predators played in the ArenaBowl a total of seven times. If the Pittsburgh Gladiators' two ArenaBowl games before they moved to Tampa Bay are included, the Storm was the only franchise that played in more (eight; six as the Storm).
During the 2007 season, the Predators inaugurated the "Predator Fan Hall of Fame". The inaugural inductees were Nancy Morris and Richard Grabe. Morris, was a superfan for over 20 years, was known to most of the team and the front office as "The PredMom", and was the president of the Orlando Predator In Your Face Fan Club. Grabe, who also was a superfan (starting in 1991), was the creator of the "PredHeads" that were seen being worn by a select group of fans that sat in section 113 of the old Amway Arena. They were also known for their tailgating parties on "Predator Island" (located in the northeast corner of lot 4 of the Centroplex). After moving to the new Amway Center, the majority of "PredHeads" sat in section 114, and tailgated under I-4 in lot 9.
The Predators maintained their organization and web presence after the AFL suspended operations in August 2009. On September 28, 2009, the Predators announced their return to play for the 2010 season as a member of the new Arena Football 1 league, until that league purchased the AFL's assets and assumed the AFL's history. With Jay Gruden obligated to the UFL by his contract with the Tuskers, eventually becoming the team's head coach, they hired former quarterback Pat O'Hara as their head coach for the 2010 season. When the schedule for the league's season was announced on December 31, 2009, the Predators were slated to return to action on April 9, 2010. In the 2010 season, the Predators finished with an 8–8 record. They qualified for the playoffs, but lost the conference championship to the Tampa Bay Storm by a single point as a last-second field goal attempt was unsuccessful.
In 2011, the Predators finished the regular season 11–7, but fell to the Jacksonville Sharks in the conference semifinals by a score of 63–48.
With a 4–14 record in 2012 under first-year head coach Bret Munsey, the Predators missed the playoffs for the first time since their inaugural season in 1991. Following the end of the season, Munsey was released as head coach.
Under Doug Plank for the 2013 season, the Predators lost their first five games of the season. It was then that the team acquired veteran quarterback Aaron Garcia in a trade with the San Jose SaberCats. The Predators went on to win seven of their remaining thirteen games following the trade to finish the season with a 7–11 record, which was good enough to clinch a playoff berth. However, they were eliminated in the conference semifinals by the Philadelphia Soul. With two weeks remaining during the regular season, Brett Bouchy sold his controlling interest in the team to The Pearsall Holdings LP for an undisclosed amount. Plank retired following the season.
The Predators moved to CFE Arena on the campus of the University of Central Florida in 2014, after the Amway Center informed the team that they had defaulted on their lease for failing to meet attendance requirements. On December 25, 2013, the Predators announced that Rob Keefe would become the seventh coach in franchise history. In May 2014, it was announced that majority owner David Pearsall had sold the team to an undisclosed ownership group, but the team was taken over by the AFL. In July 2014, reports began to surface that David A. Siegel had purchased the franchise with the intent to move the team back into the Amway Center. On July 15, 2014, Siegel confirmed his purchase of the Predators.
On December 8, 2014, the Predators suspended head coach Rob Keefe with pay while an investigation was ongoing by the Orange County Sheriff's Office into accusations of domestic violence. The charges were since dropped.
During the week of June 18, 2016, the entire Arena Football League, including the hometown Predators, displayed patches and stickers "ORL" as a remembrance of the victims killed in the Pulse Nightclub massacre.[needs update]
On October 12, 2016, the Orlando Predators announced they had suspended operations due to the reduced number of teams in the AFL and other pending disagreements with the league.
Main article: Orlando Predators (NAL)
In 2019, former Predator Kenny McEntyre launched a new Predators team in the National Arena League.
The Predators made Arena Football League history in consecutive weeks during the 1992 season:
|Orlando Predators roster|
Other league exempt
Refused to report
|Orlando Predators Hall of Fame members|
|No.||Name||Year inducted||Position(s)||Years with Predators|
|84||Carl Aikens, Jr.||2000||WR/DB||1992–1993|
|–||Perry Moss||2000||Head coach||1991–1997|
|82||Barry Wagner||2011||WR/DB||1992–1997, 2007|
The following Predators players were named to All-Arena teams:
The following Predators players were named to All-Ironman teams:
The following Predators players were named to All-Rookie teams:
|Perry Moss||1991–1997||59||25||0||.702||8||8||1992 & 1994 AFL Coach of the Year|
|Jay Gruden||1998–2001, 2004–2008||82||54||0||.603||11||7|
|Orlando Predators staff|
Main article: List of Orlando Predators seasons