Fourteen years have passed since we first sat at Snow Hall and learned that the 1st Battalion of the 158th Field Artillery regiment was being called up for service in Iraq. A lot has changed during that time, so let's take some time to catch up, this time with Arrogant Americans manager Justin Cliburn.
Are you still in the 158? If, not when did you get out?
CLIBURN: No. My contract was up in 2010. At that point, I was engaged, and my fiancee was not crazy about me going to Afghanistan or something. I was also planning on going to law school, so I ETS'd and moved on.
What did you do post-deployment?
CLIBURN: I moved back to Lawton, went back to work for UPS (where I worked with Duffy), and started college again. I eventually went to law school at OU, and I'm now an attorney in Oklahoma City.
Where are your from and how did you make it into the 158?
CLIBURN: My family is from the Gulf Coast, but we moved to Oklahoma from Florida when I was four. I grew up in Lawton and procrastinated through high school. Before I knew it, I needed a plan for college and the Guard seemed like a good idea. That was April 2001. The 158 was headquartered in Lawton, so I joined it and was assigned to Bravo Battery in Duncan.
Where do you live now?
CLIBURN: Oklahoma City, near the Plaza District.
What are your hobbies outside of FF?
CLIBURN: My wife and I volunteer at our local NPR station and are on the board of our neighborhood association. We have a dog, and I like to ride the bike trails in OKC when the weather is nice. I've always been into true crime since watching a lot of Unsolved Mysteries as a kid, and I still listen to true crime podcasts, focusing on missing persons and unidentified decedents. I created the Missing Map to help identify unidentified bodies, and there have been some successes (including two in Oklahoma, one that I linked to a man missing from Canada since the 70s).
What is your fantasy background? How long have you played FF? How many different leagues?
CLIBURN: I first played in 2004, and I didn't care for it (even though I won that league after going on autopilot). In 2005, we were all at Fort Lewis with very little awareness of what was going on in the football world, so I didn't play then (and probably wouldn't have wanted to). I got talked into playing in the OIL during the 2006 mission because . . . what else did we have to do? Something was much different that second time around, and I was hooked. I played in a couple public leagues early on, and we had a brief dynasty side league in the OIL for two years. But I really just play in the OIL. The last two seasons, I've been playing in the Fantasy Sports Alliance, due to bonding with their commissioner over how detailed we both are. And I always get roped into a work league, but the OIL is far and away my focus.
How many championships have you won? How many have you finished second in?
CLIBURN: I have five titles, although one was that autopilot 2004 championship. I've won three OIL championships, and I won in a dynasty league that fizzled out. I've finished second four times, two of those times being in the OIL. I really only care about the OIL though, so I just tell people I have three championships and two second-place finishes.
What is your general strategy in FF?
CLIBURN: I typically go for the "sure thing" in the first few rounds before going for boom-or-bust players in the mid-to-late rounds. I also generally pick QB and TE late.
How much preparation do you do before each season?
CLIBURN: I used to do a lot more extensive research before each season. I would do tons of mock drafts online, charting by hand the differences in results based on each strategy. I had a huge notebook full of research back then, but, thankfully, as I've grown older and had less time for that, technology has improved greatly. Now, I mostly do research by mock drafting on the Football Guys Draft Dominator app, which tracks all the data I used to do by hand. It also takes a fraction of the time to do a mock draft on the app than it used to take doing them online.
Do you find you draft better at the cabin with the guys or at home online?
CLIBURN: I've always drafted with the guys, so I'm not sure. But I bet I would do better away from all the distractions. It wouldn't be worth it though, because the annual draft get-together is what I look forward to all year.
Will you be at the draft cabin next year?
CLIBURN: Of course.
What is the best move you've made in FF?
CLIBURN: 1. Drafting DeSean Jackson in the 16th round in 2008; 2. Picking up Michael Vick off waivers in 2010; 3. Drafting Alvin Kamara in the 13th round in 2017.
What is your favorite FF memory? What is the pinnacle of your FF career?
CLIBURN: As far as one season goes, it was winning my first title in 2010. I was so frustrated losing the 2009 title due to a Week 17 championship game (and three first-half injuries to my star players) that I was expecting to lose again, even after a 12-1 regular season. But I pulled it out, and it capped off the most-dominant season in OIL history.
But what I'm most proud of in my playing career is my sustained success from 2008 to 2013. During those six seasons, we averaged over 10 wins per season, made the playoffs five times, earned a first-round bye four times, reached four different championship games, and won two titles. Perhaps that will be surpassed (Zerger and Brake are certainly working on it), but I doubt I will ever average that type of success over such a long period again.
On a personal level though, the pinnacle of my FF career is the charter bus ride from OKC to Arlington, Texas to draft at AT&T Stadium. The experience at the stadium wasn't everything I'd hoped for, but that bus ride was better than any draft we'd had previously, and I knew it was time to do it big every year. It led to the yearly cabin weekend, and that's the best thing that ever happened to the OIL.