Naperville residents Jeremy Burril and Dylan Power never dreamed they would one day play for a Chicago sports team. Yet the two Neuqua Valley High School graduates can say they are professional athletes after both made the roster of the Chicago Wildfire, a professional frisbee team that plays in the American Ultimate Disc League.
The Wildfire, which pays its players a small per-game stipend, was formed in 2013. This season they are playing six of their seven home games at North Central College’s Benedetti-Wehrli stadium.
“It’s very crazy to me that I’m able to get paid to play this sport,” Burril says. “It’s a huge passion of mine and I’ve always wanted to play at the highest level.”
Burril, who just graduated from Illinois State with a degree in marketing, played football and baseball at Neuqua before switching to Ultimate frisbee. He found his skills as a wide receiver and a middle infielder translated perfectly to frisbee—a fast-paced, non-contact sport that emphasizes throwing and catching.
“At first, I was frustrated that I wasn’t able to make the throws, but I worked really hard to be able to learn how to do that,” says Burril, who ran the club frisbee team at ISU.
Burril had been trying to make the Wildfire team for several years. He finally made the cut this year at the same time as Power, who is the youngest player on the Wildfire roster. Power, who will graduate from College of DuPage before transfering to Wisconsin-Whitewater, initially had to be coerced into trying frisbee.
“I didn’t even like the sport at first,” says Power, whose older brother played frisbee at Neuqua. “My mom made me go outside and throw with my brother as a punishment. Then I started throwing in seventh grade and started getting better.”
Unlike Burril, Power wasn’t a natural athlete. He tried soccer, basketball and baseball, among others, without making an impact. “I was never passionate about other sports,” Power says. “When I came across frisbee, that’s when I started feeling I really had a passion for something.”
Ultimate frisbee is a 7-on-7 game that blends elements of football and soccer and is played on a football field. Three players per team are handlers, or quarterbacks, and four serve as cutters, or receivers. A team scores a point when the disc is caught in the end zone. Games consist of four 12-minute quarters.
“You can’t intentionally hit people, but there is a physical aspect to it,” Power says. “You want to use your
body to dictate where you want [the opponent] to go.”
Burril and his teammates want local sports fans to go check out the Wildfire.
“The future of the sport is looking good,” Burril says. “I can’t wait to see friends and family at the games.”
The Wildfire has four remaining home games at North Central. The next one is against the Detroit Mechanix at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 17.
“We are excited to work with North Central and the Naperville community,” says Wildfire managing partner C.J. O’Brien. “We actually have a huge following in the Naperville area. There are a lot of high school teams in the western and northern suburbs, so we’re looking forward to bringing the games to their backyards and engaging with youth through clinics, coaching and other community events.”