Commanders General Manager Daryl Johnston excited for opportunity in San Antonio
By Cole Thompson, San Antonio Commanders Team Reporter
SAN ANTONIO – The Alamodome holds a maximum capacity of 64,000 people. Commanders general manager Daryl Johnston expects to have every seat filled when the San Diego Fleet arrive to town on February 9.
Nicknamed “Moose” because of his stature, the former fullback is a Texas legend in his own way from his days with the Dallas Cowboys. Spending 10 seasons under the direction of Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer, Johnston played a pivotal role in the Cowboys 1990’s dynasty, helping the team win three Super Bowls.
On most Sundays, fans can find Johnston paired with Chris Myers and Laura Okmin on FOX calling a NFL matchup at the top of hour. Now, Johnston will be turning in the microphone for a telephone, helping to build the Commanders into the league’s top roster.
“It’s very different right now,” Johnston said. “I’ve got a couple of great guys working with me.
“It’s a different language. It’s different descriptions of why players are successful. It’s kind of getting into the details and a lot of the nuances of it. Bob (Morris) has a unique perspective of it because he spent a lot of time coaching as well. Twenty-one years coaching and 19 years of personnel so that helps me bridge that gap of learning from a player’s perspective.”
From the moment The Alliance was formed, Johnston wanted to be apart of it in some capacity. Reaching out to his former team’s owner, Jerry Jones, along with his son, Stephen, Johnston was able to meet with the Alliance’s co-founder, Bill Polian. Once the official offer came from The Alliance’s CEO, Charlie Ebersol, the Moose was ready to suit up and build a new team.
For Johnston, it was a process of building his roster. The Alliance’s allocation rules allow only players from certain colleges and NFL rosters to join the program. Johnston dug deeper. It was never about filling a roster spot with a local talent, but rather filling the right talent in a local spot.
“It was always most important to get the best guys who were allocated to us,” Johnston said. “We’re fortunate here in the state of Texas, and this is a credit to all the high school coaches and all the college coaches in the state of Texas, we do have a lot of guys with Texas ties on our team. But we also have some guys with some other ties to the country but our allocation pool is beneficial to us.”
Johnston joined the San Antonio roster back in June of last year. While not able to help with the hiring process of his head coach, the Texas legend was pleased when it was announced he’d be working with Mike Riley, Johnston was excited to work a coach who has found success at multiple levels in the game of football.
“He is a great communicator,” Johnston said. “He’s got a tremendous demeanor but don’t let that fool you, there’s a tremendous competitive desire tucked away in there that I can’t wait to watch him on the practice field with the guys.”
Riley has coached at nearly every level of football, both in the United States and the Canadian Football League. Asides from being the all-time winningest coach in Oregon State football history, Riley helped bring the Winnipeg Blue Bombers collect two Grey Cups during his time with the organization (1984 and 1987).
Johnston believes that although Canadian Football rules different from traditional American rules, Riley’s college success should translate to the Alliance in time.
“You’re seeing a lot of college style plays be implemented in the NFL,” Johnston said. “We’re starting to see the college game push some things up to the NFL level where we used to push it down to the college level. Obviously that background that he has at Nebraska and Oregon State is going to be huge for us.”
Rosters will not be set in stone throughout the training camp sessions. Due to the restrictions from NFL rosters, The Alliance cannot contact allocated players on a current NFL practice squad until a week after their season comes to an end. This also includes players on playoff rosters for the time being.
The Commanders allocated NFL rosters include the Houston Texans, Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles, three of whom will have a chance to advance to the divisional round of the playoffs this upcoming weekend. Once they have been eliminated, Johnston will have the chance to bring other former players to his already talented roster.
San Antonio was the final city to be selected by the Alliance to start a franchise. For Johnston, it would have been one of the first cities that should have been contacted. A city built for success in state known for engulfing themselves in the football culture as part of a lifestyle, Johnston can’t wait to see football be apart of the city’s culture once more.
“They’ve embraced everybody that’s been here,” Johnston said on the city. “The Riders back in the 90’s, the Talons most recently, what the did for the New Orleans Saints during Hurricane Katrina, they’ve always embraced the team that was here.”
Plenty of former NFL stars have found success as general managers in the NFL. Johnston could join those ranks in the coming future. As practice begins, the former Syracuse star has laid the foreground for quality football to return to the city of San Antonio. Only time will tell if the work will pay out in his favor.
In his mind, Johnston has no doubt fans will be ready to welcome the Commanders when the finally take the field for their home opener next month.
“We’ve already seen it from the fan base this season at the events we’ve had already that fans and public have come out to,” Johnston said. “It’s been fantastic. You can tell right away that there’s going to be a tremendous amount of support here and all we have to do is be a good team and win some games to keep them engaged.”