Feb. 21, 2013
By RYAN MILLINOWISCH
Last season, the defensive line of the Utah Blaze, otherwise known as “Sack Lake City”, was among the most feared groups in the AFL, as the unit had three lineman finish the year with at least seven sacks. A core member of “Sack Lake City” was Keenan Mace, who finished 2012 with seven sacks and nine tackles for loss despite missing seven games. Recently AFNation’s Ryan Millinowisch sat down with Mace to discuss the success of last year’s Blaze and the direction that they are heading in this year.
RYAN MILLINOWISCH: Thank you for joining me today, Keenan. What made you want to return to Utah?
KEENAN MACE: The atmosphere, the fans, and the coaching staff. All together, they were a great combination. I felt that the players here get treated with respect. As a professional athlete, there is no where I would rather play. I cannot think of a better place to play than here in Utah.
RM: What made “Sack Lake City” so dominant in 2012?
KM: We really pushed each other and held each other accountable. All we did in camp was push each other to be better and that helped us throughout the course of the season.
RM: How will the loss of Mike Lewis affect the team this season?
KM: It’s always tough when you lose a leader like Mike. He was a great person to be around. I don’t think that losing him though will hurt us as much as people think it will. I think we can pick the pieces up and move forward.
RM: You were 12th in the League in sacks and 11th in tackles for loss despite missing several games. What made you so successful in your rookie year?
KM: I think it was because of my work ethic. I put 110% into everything that I do. I have my goals set and I’m going to accomplish all of them. As a rookie last year, I felt like I had a lot to prove. I came to Utah and took the starting role. I felt as if I owed it to my coaches and my team to give my best performance at all times.
: Despite finishing 12-6, the Blaze still finished 3rd in the division. What makes the West division so competitive?
KM: The talent pool in the West is ridiculous. They have some of the best offensive linemen in the League. This is an offense driven League and if you have people that can protect your quarterback, you are going to put points up. You have San Jose, Arizona, and Spokane and everyone is loaded with talent across the board.
RM: What will the Blaze need to do in order to improve in 2013?
KM: We are going to have a better season to this year; no doubt about it. There are certainly things that we will have to improve on. Towards the end of the season last year, we went on a good run where we won six in a row before we lost to Philadelphia. To improve this year we are going to have to stay together and play together.
RM: The 2012 Blaze team set the franchise record by winning 12 games. Now that teams in the League realize what a tough opponent Utah is, do you think they’ll prepare differently to play you?
KM: We definitely took the League by surprise. I feel that teams prepare as hard as they can when they come to play us and that everyone has it out for Utah. I think that whoever plays us takes the extra time to prepare. We are definitely on people’s radars now.
RM: Thanks, Keenan!