Commanders Built in Texas Tradition as Players Embark on Training Camp
By Cole Thompson, San Antonio Commanders Team Reporter
SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Commanders training camp is officially underway as players and coaches have arrived in the Alamo City, ready to begin their journey. Seventy-five players will be given a chance to earn a roster spot on coach Mike Riley’s unit before the start of the regular season.
While some players have come from different colleges across the country, including Toledo, North Carolina and Notre Dame, the state of Texas still remains home for a majority of the roster. Commanders general manager Daryl Johnston believes that thanks to allocation rules set up by the league, the Commanders could have one of the top rosters.
“There’s an allocation process to get our players and there’s always been a discussion on who produces the best talent in the game of football,” Johnston said. “It’s always is it California, is it Florida or is it Texas so we have a little bit of an experiment going on here with San Diego, San Antonio and Orlando. This is all credit to al the high school football coaches, all the dads out there that coach at a young age in pop warner leagues and obviously all the college coaches right here throughout the state of Texas.”
The largest state in the country, Texas is home to 143 four-year universities all across its borders. The Commanders will have representatives from 14 different universities take the field during camp. Going as far west as Canyon all the way to local San Antonio, all areas of the Lone Star State have been accounted for and will be well represented throughout the training camp process.
“We obviously want to have a winning team number one and we want to play good, exciting football,” Riley said. “We will grow as a group. I already feel like we’re already there and we want to put on a good show for this city. I know this city will embrace the team. I know they have a great interest in having a pro football team here, always have.”
While San Antonio might be the seventh largest city in the United States, professional football has never been the focal point of the culture. The University of Texas-San Antonio has called the Alamodome home for the Roadrunners since 2011 and will see several alumnus return for the Commanders inaugural campaign.
Quarterback Dalton Sturm and wide receiver Josh Stewart headline the former Roadrunners class as the two recently were seeing connecting on offense during the 2017 season. The pair played were teammates under coach Frank Wilson from 2015 to 2017 and combined for 518 yards and three touchdowns during their senior campaign.
Along with the offensive duo, other UTSA player is defensive lineman Ashaad Mabry (2015). Mabry spent three seasons as a member of the New Orleans Saints (2015-17) and Carolina Panthers (2018).
San Antonio is also home to the University of Incarnate Word. Located near the heart of the city, the Cardinals have produced several NFL players and will feature another professional athlete joining the Commanders’ initial roster. Punter Joseph Zema (2017) played in 11 games during his final season for the Cardinals and averaged 46.7 yards per punt and a long of 75 yards.
North of San Antonio, the city of San Marcos plays host to Texas State University. While a young football program at the FBS level, the Bobcats have produced several NFL level talent over the last decade. Cornerback Darryl Morris (2012) spent six seasons in the NFL with multiple organizations and collected 98 total tackles along with two interceptions. He will join San Antonio as one of the more experienced members.
The city of Waco is home to Baylor University, a private university that has been known in recent years for their successful athletic facilities. The Commanders will feature several Bears alumnus looking to earn their way onto the field this camp. Offensive guard Cyril Richardson (2014) was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. The former Bear spent two seasons with Buffalo, playing in 12 games before joining the Chicago Bears (2016-17) later on his career. Other Baylor alumnus include offensive tackle Mo Porter (2017) and safety Orion Stewart (2016).
Houston is one of the largest cities in the country and is well known for their deep love of football. The Cougars have become one of the top non-power five teams and consistently produce professional talent ready to compete at the highest level. Wide receiver Demarcus Ayers (2015) spent three seasons with several NFL teams after an strong career with the Cougars offense.
Running back Kenneth Farrow II (2015) rushed for nearly back to back 1,000 yards seasons before have brief stints with the Los Angeles Chargers (2016-17) and New England Patriots (2017). San Antonio will also feature a pair of defensive Cougars as defensive linemen Joey Mbu (2014) and Nick Thurman (2017) look to secure a spot on the line under the direction of coach Jeff Mclnerney.
College Station features Texas A&M and is home of the 12th Man. Several former Aggies will call San Antonio home as they prepare for the Commanders kickoff. Headlined by wide receiver Speedy Noil (2016), the 5-foot-11 product was known for his agility and speed along with his potential in the return game. Other former Aggies include tight end Cam Clear (2015), running back Trey Williams (2015) and linebacker Shaan Washington (2016).
Fort Worth is home to dance halls, the stockyards and TCU football. San Antonio will welcome former Horned Frogs star running back Aaron Green (2015) as he looks to continue his career after brief stint with the Los Angeles Rams. Green ranked seventh in program history for single-season rushing yards with 1,272 yards during his senior season. Other Horned Frogs include wide receiver John Diarse (2017), tight end Cole Hunt (2017) and safety Nick Orr (2017).
In the state’s capital, the city of Austin features the University of Texas and their rich football program. The Longhorns have not only won four national titles, but also produced some of the top professional talent on the field. Former kicker Nick Rose (2015) is best known for his time with the Washington Redskins (2017) where he would go 10 of 11 and make a long of 55 yards. Other former Longhorns include offensive tackle Donald Hawkins who spent four seasons among multiple NFL franchises and cornerback Duke Thomas (2015).
Texas A&M Commerce recently claimed a national championship victory back in 2017 thanks to their success on offense. The Commanders will hope to bring that same type of mentality to their program with offensive lineman Jared Machorro (2017). The 6-foot-6 tackle started two seasons and was a key blocker for Harlon Hill winner and current Birmingham Iron quarterback Luis Perez.
Texas A&M Kingsville is a smaller school but has a deep passion for their football program. The Javalineas will be well represented by tight end Stehly Reden (2017). The former BYU product started for two seasons and collected 537 yards along with nine total touchdowns.
Heading out to Canyon, the West Texas A&M Buffaloes have been playing quality football for over 100 seasons since the program opened in 1901. Quarterback Dustin Vaughan (2013) will compete for a chance to become the Commanders starting quarterback after an impressive career with the Buffaloes.
The two-time Lone Star Conference Offensive Player of the Year was protected by the franchise with fourth overall pick in The Alliance’s “Protect or Pick” QB Draft last November. Other Buffalo alumnus include wide receiver Riley Smith (2017), defensive lineman John Sheehy (2015) and kicker Sergio Castillo Jr. (2013).
The Commanders will practice 21 times during its January training camp in preparation of the February 9 season-opener at the Alamodome against the San Diego Fleet.