After the Philadelphia Soul clinched their ArenaBowl 32 berth against the Albany Empire in Albany, New York on August 11th, 2019, defensive back James Romain was named 2019 AFL Defensive Back of the Year and 2019 AFL Defensive Player of the Year. This is the fifth year that a Soul player has received been AFL Defensive Back of the Year, the second consecutive year for Romain, and fourth consecutive year for a Philadelphia defensive player. Romain is the third Soul player in the last four years to earn AFL Defensive Player of the Year honors. In the 2019 regular season, Romain recorded a league-leading eight interceptions, returning three for touchdowns. He continued to lead the Soul in defensive stats with twelve passes defended. In the playoffs, he intercepted Arvell Nelson three times in the first game of the AFL playoffs.
In the first week of the 2019 AFL campaign for the Philadelphia Soul, James Romain intercepted two passes against the Atlantic City Blackjacks. Both interceptions from Randy Hippeard were returned for touchdowns by Romain, making him the Defensive Player of the Game and the Most Valuable Player. His clutch performance that game would prove to be a deciding factor in the inaugural matchup between the Blackjacks and the Soul, providing the boost for Philadelphia to win 48-41. For the next five weeks, Romain remained consistent with pass breakups, but the Soul began to struggle.
Stuck in a rut, the Philadelphia Soul were a better team than what they showed in the first half of the season. Plays needed to be made defensively, which is exactly what James Romain did in week six. The Soul had the opportunity to pick up a win against the Columbus Destroyers and their confidence back to make a run for the AFL playoffs. In this game, Romain had an interception return for a touchdown to open the game. He ignited Philadelphia back into the win column.
The next week, the Philadelphia Soul played the Washington Valor for the second time in the regular season in week seven. While James Romain was able to intercept Arvell Nelson in that game, it just was not enough to extend on the win the week prior. Romain was flying around the ball this entire game, collecting nine tackles and defending a pass. In the loss, Romain earned the Defensive Player of the Game honor. This seemed to be the game where Romain began to get a little more comfortable in combat against the Valor.
In week nine, the Philadelphia Soul had the same opportunity that they did in week six, which was to pick up a win against the Columbus Destroyers and build a winning streak. James Romain had ten tackles, two interceptions, and broke up two passes. This was one of his best overall performances in the 2019 season. It wasn’t enough to win any Defensive Player of the Game honors, but it did help the Soul ultimately run away with the game. That’s what matters when you are chasing a championship bid.
In the rematch against the Albany Empire, the Philadelphia Soul got their sweet revenge. It was also the last time that the Soul and the Empire played each other where only the starters played the entire game. In this game, James Romain did record an interception against Tommy Grady and the defensive secondary complimented the defensive line rush perfectly, resulting in the first time Grady was sacked all season.
The last full game of the 2019 regular season where all of the starters did play the entire game for the Philadelphia Soul was against the Atlantic City Blackjacks. Just like the first time these two teams faced off, James Romain was able to cause havoc to Randy Hippeard from the secondary. He intercepted Hippeard in that game and the Soul won, 50-45, on a twenty-eight-yard pass from Dan Raudabaugh to Darius Prince with thirteen seconds remaining to play.
However, perhaps the most important performance from James Romain was in the first game of the AFL playoffs against a team that had the Philadelphia Soul’s number in 2019. Against the Washington Valor in the first game of the AFL playoffs, Romain intercepted Arvell Nelson three times! He was the Defensive Player of the Game and contributed to giving the Soul a +36 points advantage in the AFL aggregate scoring system. With his contribution that game alongside his team, that propelled Philadelphia into ArenaBowl 32.
As the Philadelphia Soul took the field and celebrated their win in game two of the AFL playoffs at home against the Washington Valor, I found my fellow Delaware native and went directly to him. I congratulated him on his fantastic 2019 season for advancing to ArenaBowl 32.
His smiles would, unfortunately, vanish in the big game, with the Soul suffering a 45-27 loss to the Albany Empire, but it didn’t start that way. Forcing a fumble on the opening drive, the defensive player of the year set the tone for the night, but it wasn’t enough to lift the team over Albany.
However, even after being pipped at the final hurdle, it’s safe to say that James Romain is the best in his position and beloved by the Soul fans.
Eric is a University of Delaware graduate with a degree in English. While in school, he began writing for different publications such as The Highlight Network, Amps and Greenscreens, and he did color commentary for the University of Delaware Men’s and Women’s lacrosse teams throughout the 2013 season as an alumni. Prior to being featured with Philly Sports Network, he began a pro-wrestling podcast with a childhood friend called the Totally Over Podcast. As an avid sports die-hard for all things Philadelphia, Eric is also a proud supporter of West Virginia University.