Spring is in full swing now, and that means we can go outside again and play some football.
That’s not limited to just your backyard flag football games, as The Spring League is bringing football back to your television screens starting in May. The league has a Syracuse Orange flair to it as former Orange quarterback Eric Dungey will feature in the league for the Blues.
We got some time to talk with Dungey about The Spring League, his Syracuse career, and the current state of the Orange.
(This interview has been slightly edited for clarity)
Football is back— FOX Sports PR (@FOXSportsPR) April 14, 2021
For the first time ever, @TheSpringLeague airs on broadcast television -- with seven games on FOX and 18 more across FS1 & FS2
Full TV schedule ➡️ https://t.co/iyIOi9eGvb
The 2021 TSL season begins Thursday, May 6 on FS1 pic.twitter.com/atADBZBRoL
TNIAAM: Let’s start with The Spring League. From the outside looking in, it looks like a great opportunity for you and a ton of players to get some great experience and to get eyes on your football game. What is The Spring League and how will it benefit you in your football career?
Eric Dungey: I think The Spring League, like you said, is a great opportunity. And for a lot of free agents, and just the time right now in the pandemic that we’re in, opportunities are far and near, and you have to take them when you can get them. This is a phenomenal opportunity for guys like me who need to get film and who need to just show that they can play still.
Because last year, the CFL really wasn’t running, the XFL obviously went under, so as the NFL but even with those, there’s very strict protocols with workouts and whatnot, even workouts are limited. So again, this is a great opportunity for a lot of guys like myself to just go out there and play, put something on film and hopefully get something in the future.
TNIAAM: I’m not too familiar with how the games are going to be run in The Spring League. Are they going to have normal football rules? Or is going to be anything unique about how the game is going to be played?
Dungey: As far as I know, I think it’s similar rules to the XFL as far as kickoff goes, but other than that, it’s football rules. It kind of simulates the football I’ve played my whole life. So, nothing too crazy, no rules that I haven’t heard of, so that’s pretty normal.
TNIAAM: And like you said, you haven’t had the chance in a while to get on the field to show NFL scouts what you can do. What are you looking to show guys at the next what you can still do on the football field?
Dungey: Just the way I’ve always played, that I’m a leader, that I belong behind center. I’m more confident and eager than ever. I just really want to play at the end of the day. And it’s like I said, opportunities are far and near. The best thing that I can do is just go play a game, because it’s one thing to do something in practice, but it really shows in games and on the field and going from there.
TNIAAM: When you initially signed with the Giants as an undrafted free agent, you were listed on their roster as not just a quarterback, but as a tight end as well, a la the “Taysom Hill” role. If you hopefully make it back to the NFL, would you consider going back into that quarterback/tight end hybrid role? Or would you want to go back purely as a quarterback?
Dungey: I want to be a quarterback. It was my understanding when I was at the Giants that I was going to be that quarterback/tight end. Unfortunately, I was kind of just thrown into the tight end room. And, at 219 pounds — I’ve never played tight end in my life — I was obviously trying to do as best as I can. But it’s a whole different monster to try to learn all these techniques and stuff you’ve never done before at the professional level against guys who have been doing that their whole life and it was just very tough from there. It was a lot more tight end than quarterback, and unfortunately, I ended up getting cut because I did not fit the tight end build, which I could have told you before the draft.
So then the Browns picked me up and I was with them for about 10 weeks, doing practice squad quarterback. I think I joined week six but, joining then, it’s tough to get some reps and I was obviously very grateful for the opportunity. But reps were pretty limited there and I wasn’t really able to show much. So again, I’m just very excited for The Spring League to actually be able to play in games and just finally go see what I can do.
TNIAAM: Let’s switch over to you Syracuse career, and let’s start with this tweet from you Twitter page:
I know most Syracuse fans know what that date means. How special was that Clemson game for you?
Dungey: It was incredible. It was a memory to last for a lifetime. The next year, I wish we could have beat them as well, because back-to-back would have been phenomenal, and we had them on the ropes. I think we were up by 10 in the fourth quarter, but it was just a phenomenal game. And it was great for the Syracuse community. We’ve had a couple of games that stood out at Syracuse. We took on some top teams, it wasn’t just a fluke. It was Virginia Tech sophomore year, Clemson, and we’ve played against great teams and we held our own. I just showed that it really wasn’t a fluke game or anything like that, that we belong there.
Senior year was why it was also so special. I was able to make it through the whole season, I was healthy and go from there and it just showed what we could do. I think Syracuse needs to get back to that and have very high competitiveness within the team. That’s how we were so successful as we were just very competitive throughout practice and it just drove us to be better on the field.
TNIAAM: And that 2018 season ended off well with the Camping World Bowl win. How important was that, not just for you and the memories of that team, but also for the program to have that much success in 2018?
Dungey: Oh, it was huge. You always want to give fans that have been loyal something to cheer for. I think it made them very proud, especially the Camping World Bowl. It was an awesome ballgame down in Orlando. You just saw the fans that turned out, it was incredible. That’s what I love about Syracuse. They made 3,000 miles away from Portland a home away from home. I will always be grateful for the fans of Syracuse, the administrators at Syracuse, everybody who helped me out there. Even today, they’re still reaching out and checking in on me and it shows the family culture that was built there. That’s why I was so big to get a bowl game win for the fans in the community.
TNIAAM: We’ve seen you really evolve in your four years at Syracuse after getting into that opening game in 2015. Do you think you would have grown into the player you are if you weren’t at Syracuse?
Dungey: I don’t know. I think I’m the player I am because of who I am. I just love to be competitive, I love to win. I think not having a redshirt year was tough just because I basically came to campus in the summer, got about a month-and-a-half or two months of camp in, and then I was thrown into a starting position and went from there. Obviously, I would never change that for the world. But from a physical standpoint — I think I was 190 pounds, maybe — I was just not the size of a quarterback in the ACC.
Once I started putting on weight, I was able to be more durable and take hits and go from there. I think it would have been huge for me and my career if I was able to have that one year to bulk up and get my body right. But other than that, I think I would have been the player, regardless of anywhere I was. I’m a very highly competitive player and I love to play and I want to do anything I can to win.
TNIAAM: You also had to deal with a coaching change at Syracuse. That must’ve been tough to go from Scott Shafer to Dino Babers. How much of an influence did Dino Babers have when he came to Syracuse on you and your career?
Dungey: Yeah, first off, I can’t say enough good things about Coach Shafer and Coach Lester. Even today, they’re still reaching out to me. I have a wedding coming up and I’m inviting them to my wedding just because of the opportunity they gave me out of college. I was only with them for six months, and for them to still reach out to me, two or three years out of college, it just shows the kind of guys that they are.
Babers coming in just had an immediate impact. He just demanded perfection and going from there. I’m very thankful for him because I think he made me a great football player and made me even more competitive than I already was. So very thankful for both coaching staffs.
TNIAAM: Obviously, Syracuse fans aren’t too happy about where the program is after the 1-10 season. How much faith do you have in Coach Babers and his staff that they’ll be able to turn around the ship and get Syracuse back to where they were towards the end of your Syracuse career?
Dungey: I think the best thing that is happening is you got a lot of competition throughout all the position groups, especially in the quarterback room. Tommy [DeVito] is a great quarterback. But when you have a guy behind you pushing you — he’s got two guys behind him with the transfer (Garrett Shrader) coming over and that young freshman from California (Justin Lamson) — It’s just going to make the whole team better. You go as the competition goes, and competition is healthy for the heart. I think it’s really going to be great for the team and it’s going to accumulate to some wins.
And the defense is really young. I love [Tony White]. He’s been just phenomenal. You just look around and you’ve got true freshmen and sophomores out there and just really wreaking havoc. The older they get and the stronger they get is just going to be better and better. They’re gonna get confidence and you’re going to start seeing those turn into wins.
TNIAAM: And I know when you go into The Spring League and restart your football career, a big influence in your life won’t be there to help support you in your dad. How much has he influenced your life and how much of your future football career will be in memory of him?
Dungey: Yeah, it’s been tough. That was part of the reason in the XFL, everyone kind of wondered why I wasn’t playing. My dad was in the final stages of cancer at the time. The one week I was about to start, he ended up passing away. So it was one of the hardest moments in my life, honestly, because I had to make a huge decision. But I had to be there for my family. Football would be here and there, but family is forever. So I tried to make it home, but unfortunately he ended up passing away before I could make it back.
But it’s big. He was a huge part of my life. To this day, I still try to make him proud. That’s why I’m doing The Spring League, trying to make him proud. And I know he always wanted me to follow my dream, and I’m going to do it.
TNIAAM: Finally, you know you’re so beloved in Syracuse. Every time fans mention your name, they always do it with happiness and glee. What would you say to those Syracuse fans who not only supported you during your college career, but who are also supporting you now in your professional career?
Dungey: I love it. It’s been the hardest year-and-a-half to be a free agent. I think a lot of people don’t really know what I was doing. I haven’t really been posting much. I’ve just been honestly working. I’ve been motivated more than ever. I’ve just been frustrated and trying to prove people wrong and prove that I can still play. Like I said, opportunities are very slim now. That’s why I’m very grateful for The Spring League coming out because It’s one of the opportunities I’ve been waiting for to just go out there and play.
Just the past year-and-a-half waking up anniversary expecting a call and not getting it but still going out, working like I’m going to get a call the next day, it’s very mentally taxing. And a lot of people don’t understand how much work goes into it. I’m just excited again for another opportunity.
Once again, our thanks to Eric Dungey and The Spring League for taking some time to talk with us. The Spring League will start on May 6 on the FOX family of networks. Dungey is on the Blues and they play their first game on May 7 at 9:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.
Best of luck to Eric in The Spring League and in his future professional football endeavors!