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Express find groove late in joint practice with Salt Lake

Express find groove late in joint practice with Salt Lake By Dylan Rubino, Memphis Express Team Reporter SAN ANTONIO – It was another slow start for the Memphis Express Friday morning against the Salt Lake Stallions, but the team responded in a big way on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger led the Express down the field, going 4-for-4 passing on the drive and capped it off with a 31-yard touchdown to Reece Horn in the right corner of the end zone. The defense held the Stallions offense in check the second half of practice with defensive back Tyree Robinson leading the way with two interceptions. It was a strong response from the Express after a lackluster performance against the Atlanta Legends on Thursday, something head coach Mike Singletary was really impressed with. “It just took us a little while to get acclimated, but I think after yesterday, we didn’t want to make some of the same mistakes,” Singletary said. “I was excited to see us today. I think every team needs to find the right groove.” After the passionate speech Singletary gave to his players Thursday, the team fed off the strong message and came out with an intensity and focus to help them bounce back. “He keeps it real with us,” Mettenberger said about Singletary. “He understands that it starts with us and we have to be self-motivated and put your best foot forward. He definitely jumped on us yesterday and definitely gave us a kick in the butt to get us going.” The Express offense started slow as a whole as drives were stalling against an aggressive Stallions defense. The offense huddled on the sideline with offensive coordinator David Lee and the unit seemed to settle down from that point on. Mettenberger rallied the troops and led a strong scoring drive through the air. “We’re doing a lot of good things on offense, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement,” Mettenberger said. “We’re making the right strides as a team and as a unit. There’s a lot to be hopeful and excited about.” The Salt Lake offense came out firing, running the ball with ease and finding open holes in the Express defense with play-action passing. The unit looked tired, but a flip switched and the players came alive. Robinson led the turnaround for the Express defense, picking off Stallions quarterback B.J. Daniels on the first play of the scrimmage after Mettenberger found Horn for the touchdown. Robinson ended the joint practice with an interception off Stallions quarterback Matt Linehan. “I feel blessed just to be out here,” Robinson said. “I started focusing on my playbook more and focus on what the coaches are telling me. I just came out here with confidence, step on the field and God did the work for me.” The tone from Singletary was much different after practice, preaching to his players to come in with a me-first attitude and be ready to work. Singletary was proud of his players after practice, telling them they looked like a true team. That’s the goal to reach by the end […]

Express get first taste of live action against Atlanta

Express get first taste of live action against Atlanta By Dylan Rubino, Memphis Express Team Reporter SAN ANTONIO – “What does football mean to you? We are going to build winners here.” That was the question Memphis Express head coach Mike Singletary asked his team after their joint practice against the Atlanta Legends ended Thursday morning at the S.T.A.R. Soccer Complex. Singletary spoke to the team for around five minutes and gave a moving speech to help motivate the players for their joint practice tomorrow against the Salt Lake Stallions. “It’s all about getting these guys to be professionals. That’s what it’s all about. We have to be good enough to get to that point,” Singletary said. “Thankfully we have another opportunity tomorrow and I’m excited about that.” When the Express lined up with the Legends, the offense struggled to sustain drives and move the ball downfield. The pressure was on the defense to keep the team afloat and the unit did their part. Both defenses controlled the tempo of the joint practice, but the Express shined with their backs against the wall. In red zone situations at the end of practice, the offense punched the ball in the end zone with a 10-yard touchdown run by Kenny Hilliard. The Express defense kept the Atlanta offense out of the end zone, capped off with an interception by Justin Martin. “It was different for all of us seeing a new team and a new offense for the first time,” Martin said. “At the end, we brought the defense up and we kind of got everybody calmed down, slowed down and we just played football.” “It’s always good to finish strong like that,” Singletary said. “We were able to keep some kind of composure at the end and come out of it feeling good about some of the things we saw.” There was plenty of jawing and trash talking between the Express and Legends Thursday morning, but the message from coach Singletary was clear to let your play do the talking and focus on the game, not the opponent. “Whenever coach Singletary talks, you suck it up,” Martin said. “When he says something like that, you have to listen and take it in because he’s not telling you anything that can hurt you. It’s all positive and for the betterment of the team.” “We can’t be fighting and trash talking. Its football,” wide receiver Fabian Guerra said. “It’s a game of controlling your emotions and showing it during the play and not after it. We have to fix that.” Guerra continues to have a strong second week of camp, catching passes out of the slot and being a security blanket for the quarterbacks on third down. From Fairmont State to the National Arena League, Guerra has worked hard for this moment to prove himself in professional football and is getting his shot with The Alliance of American Football. “I’ve been waiting for this moment for two years,” Guerra said. “I’ve been waiting for a moment like this to catch passes from (Christian) Hackenberg and seeing all these guys in the league last […]

Malik Boynton: from homeless to the Express

Malik Boynton: from homeless to the Express By Dylan Rubino, Memphis Express Team Reporter SAN ANTONIO – At 16 years old, Malik Boynton was homeless. For several weeks, he spent his nights with his father and siblings, sleeping in the back of an old Ford van parked on the side of a street. Every morning, that bed became his closet, where he would lay out his clothes and pick out that day’s outfit. Even for a kid growing up in South Detroit, accustomed to daily hurdles, not having a home was a new level of hardship. And even though he had already endured the worst of losses, the uphill climb would only get steeper. “It was real tough. It was tough picking out outfits in the van not wanting anyone to know about our situation,” Boynton says about being homeless. “There were times that I would wear the same outfit for three days straight and just hoping nobody knew. I was hoping nobody would make fun of me.” But Boynton would make the best of it. Just like he did when he lost his mother to cancer. And when his aunt was diagnosed with the disease. And when an injury on the football field left him temporarily paralyzed. Indeed, the life story of Malik Boynton is a how-to manual on overcoming adversity and taking advantage of second chances. And the latest chapter in that story is being written in the Alliance of American Football, as Boynton tries to etch his name on the Memphis Express roster as a defensive back. “The stuff that happened to me in my life and all the work I put up until this point, all I wanted was another shot,” Boynton recalls after a recent practice. “This time around, if I ever got a second chance, I’m not going to leave it up to nobody else. I treat every day like it’s my last day.” Boynton describes his early childhood as normal. The family was extremely close — his mother, father, sister and all three boys. When he wasn’t at school or at home, he was playing sports. But life hit Boynton hard in 2003, when his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. He was only 7 years old. Seven years later, the disease claimed Pamela Boynton’s life. “She was my rock. I was devastated,” Boynton says. “My mom made sure I did my homework as soon as I got home. I had good guidance at a young age. It was like once she left, it was on me to keep that up.” Following Pamela’s death, Boynton’s father, Kippriol, lost his job with the City of Detroit. The family struggled to pay the bills and ultimately made the van its temporary home. He also spent time living at his aunt’s house. But while he was living with his aunt, she was diagnosed with cancer, as well. Afraid of being an additional burden to his aunt, Boynton moved out. His friends’ and coaches’ couches became his bed. Not all of them fully understood Boynton’s situation. But he will always be grateful to each. “I never took it for […]

Hackenberg, Cook in the heat of QB battle

Hackenberg, Cook in the heat of QB battle By Dylan Rubino, Memphis Express Team Reporter SAN ANTONIO – Quarterbacks Troy Cook and Christian Hackenberg got the first two drives of two-minute drills at the end of practice Wednesday morning. Cook looked sharp, leading the Express offense down the field with five first downs. The offense couldn’t get the ball in the end zone, but the football kept moving down the field. Hackenberg helped the offense convert on two third downs and a fourth down. The Penn State product capped off the drive with a 35-yard touchdown pass to Reece Horn down the right sideline. The team went no pads at practice today with the team making final tweaks before two-straight joint practices on Thursday and Friday. All four signal-callers led strong drives in the two-minute drill with each guy looking to make a statement down the road. “I feel comfortable in the two-minute drill and I think all the other quarterbacks do as well,” Cook said. “We’re coached well and all the other guys take it pretty seriously studying the playbook.” The quarterbacks faced no pass rush today, which gave them extra time to read the defense and find their targets. Evaluating each quarterback today could be tough, but each guy made strides to help give them the leg up in the battle.   “It’s obviously really early in the process and to say any of us feel super comfortable in that situation, but it’s important for us to continue to get reps and build that confidence,” Hackenberg said. “Taking that one element out of not having a pass rush right now and being able to get our legs under us definitely helps us.” Hackenberg was a three-year starter at Penn State and spent two years in the NFL with the New York Jets. The Pennsylvania native has been playing his best ball recently and has done a good job keeping drives alive and taking command of the offense. The competition at quarterback doesn’t phase him and he thrives off it. “I think it’s a great room. We all know what the deal is and we all understand what the nature of this position is. We’ve all been playing it for a long time,” Hackenberg said. “One guy is going to be the guy. We just try and push each other and help each other out with the little things.” As the third pick in the inaugural “Protect or Pick” Quarterback Draft, Cook came into Express camp with a lot of expectations put on him. To Cook, making an impact and helping out his fellow quarterbacks is the most important thing. “We’re all good friends and we all love the competition and that’s why we play quarterback,” Cook said. “Everybody has been nice to each other and there’s been no bad blood. It’s just been a good friendly competition.” Offensive coordinator David Lee wanted the quarterbacks and wide receivers in the same meeting room after practice and the connection has paid off because of it. Hackenberg and Cook have taken notice of that as the groups seem to be connecting at […]

Zac Stacy joins a crowded running back group

Zac Stacy joins a crowded running back group By Dylan Rubino, Memphis Express Team Reporter SAN ANTONIO – After spending three years in the NFL and part of 2018 with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Vanderbilt product Zac Stacy has found a home back in Tennessee. Stacy joins the Memphis Express in the heat of training camp and joins a talented running back group featuring Kenny Hilliard (LSU), Terrence Magee (LSU), Raijon Neal (Tennessee), Jahad Thomas (Temple) and Anthony Manzo-Lewis (Albany). Monday was Stacy’s first day of practice with the Express and is looking forward to the competition in the middle of training camp. “The great philosopher, Lil Wayne, once said sorry for the wait,” Stacy said on his return to the practice field. “It’s good to be back out here competing with the guys. We got a good group of guys in the running back room, so we’re all just complementing each other and getting better each and every day.” Complimentary is the key word when it comes to running backs coach Ty Knott. He wants his group to be versatile threats out of the backfield running and catching the football so each group on offense can compliment each other. “We have to be a close-knit unit,” Knott said. “I want to see our guys compete every play. That’s my biggest thing regardless of the goal. Whether it’s in the run game, protection or in the passing game, they have to be solid.” Even with the time off, Stacy looked sharp running the football and making cuts. At 27 years old and with professional experience in the NFL and CFL, Stacy looks to share his wisdom with his fellow teammates. “We push each other throughout the film room, meeting room and always out here at practice,” Stacy said. “It’s all fitting together.” In four years at Vanderbilt University, Stacy rushed for over 3,500 yards and was the first player in Vanderbilt history to rush for over 3,000 yards. Spending three years in the NFL with the St. Louis Rams and the New York Jets, Stacy brings experience and another proven back to the Express. “He does a good job. His legs are fresh so that helps too,” Knott said. “He’s very smart and he’s blended in. He’s a just a part of the group and that’s important.” Even with his years in professional football, Stacy feels he can improve in so many ways and looks to help lead the Express to a championship. “I’m just trying to be versatile and trying to be as available as I can be,” Stacy said. “That’s pretty much my memo going into camp is trying to be put in different spots and utilize my versatility.” The Memphis Express opens its season on February 10 with a visit to The Birmingham Iron. The Memphis Express opens its home schedule on February 16 hosting the Arizona Hotshots. Get tickets here. 

Offense fires back on misty day at Express camp: quick hits

Offense fires back on misty day at Express camp: quick hits By Dylan Rubino, Memphis Express Team Reporter SAN ANTONIO – One day after the defense dominated practice, the offense shined in situational football Tuesday morning at the S.T.A.R. Soccer Complex. On another cold day in the heart of Texas, the offense lit up the field and kept the ball moving, especially putting the ball in the end zone in red zone drills. “Our offense got down to the red zone and I thought our offense pretty much dominated that,” head coach Mike Singletary said. “We got into two minutes and I thought our defense pretty well dominated that. It was interesting and a different turn of events.” The wide receivers had their best day of camp to date, making explosive plays downfield and using their athleticism and size to keep the chains moving in situational drills. Here are the main takeaways from another competitive day at Express camp: Wide receiver Reece Horn (Indianapolis) had his best day of training camp and continues to be the most impressive wideout for the Express. Horn caught three touchdowns in practice and kept on being a reliable target on third down. Fabian Guerra (Fairmont State), Christian Briggs (Southeastern Louisiana) and Drew Morgan (Arkansas) caught touchdown passes during red zone drills as well. Xavier Rush (Tulane) led off 7-on-7 with two-straight catches and continues to have a solid camp. The defense found their stride at the end of practice and slowed down a hot Express offense in in-game situations and two-minute drills. On the final drive of practice, Anthony Johnson (LSU) continued to dominate at camp with a sack and defensive back Malik Boynton (Austin Peay) had an interception to end the day. Channing Stribling (Michigan), Kadeem Satchel (Emporia State) and Jeremy Cutrer (Middle Tennessee) each had a pass breakup in the secondary. The four-man battle rages on at quarterback with Troy Cook and Brandon Silvers standing out at practice today. Both Cook and Silvers each had touchdown passes in two-minute drills and kept the chains moving. Christian Hackenberg had a strong day at practice throwing the football for the second day in a row. The Memphis Express opens its season on February 10 with a visit to The Birmingham Iron. The Memphis Express opens its home schedule on February 16 hosting the Arizona Hotshots. Get tickets here.