Alliance News


Dennis Erickson Returns to Rice-Eccles Stadium Sidelines with Veteran Staff Salt Lake City, Utah – October 11, 2018 – The Alliance of American Football’s Salt Lake Stallions today announced their full coaching staff under head coach Dennis Erickson for the 2019 inaugural season. Joining head coach Dennis Erickson as he returns to Rice-Eccles stadium for the first time since X, Donnie Henderson will serve as The Stallion’s defensive coordinator, Tim Lappano as the team’s offensive coordinator and Dan Cozzetto as the offensive line coach. Additionally, Dennis Creehan will work as the linebacker coach, Ronnie Lee as the defensive back coach, Jason Phillips as wide receiver coach and Ronald Fouch as quarterbacks coach. Nick James will serve in a defensive quality control role with Nick Alaimalo as offensive quality control and running back coach while Michael Gray will be The Stallion’s defensive line coach. “As I worked to assemble my staff, I was focused on finding coaches who will embrace the Salt Lake community and provide our players with the best possible experience as we work to build a championship calibre team,” said Dennis Erickson, head coach, Salt Lake Stallions. “We are always looking for ways to help players succeed on and off the field by reaching their full potential and the staff we have curated is uniquely familiar to me and understands what we are going to try and accomplish here in Salt Lake on both sides of the football.” Donnie Henderson, Defensive Coordinator Henderson, a coaching veteran of both the collegiate and professional ranks, most recently served as the defensive backs coach for the Buffalo Bills (2013-16). Prior to joining the Bills, Henderson coached at Southern University in 2011 and was named the defensive backs coach at Syracuse University in 2012. He has also coached the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens (1999-2003), New York Jets (2004-05), Detroit Lions (2006), Cincinnati Bengals (2007), Jacksonville Jaguars (2008) and Arizona Cardinals (2009-10). Henderson began his coaching career at his alma mater Utah State (1983-88) and then spent a season at the University of Idaho in 1989. He then spent two seasons at California (1990- 91) before joining the Arizona State staff (1992-97). Henderson spent the 1998 season at the University of Houston prior to joining the NFL. Tim Lappano, Offensive Coordinator Lappano brings nearly 40 years of offensive coaching experience to the Stallions most recently serving as the wide receivers coach and interim head coach at Georgia State University (2014-16). Lappano has extensive experience within both college and professional football having spent 16 years with college programs in major conferences. He began his coaching career at his alma mater Idaho (1982-85) and has also coached collegiately at Wyoming (1986, 1996), Washington State (1987-91), California (1992-95) and Purdue (1997). In 1998 Lappano made his way to the NFL joining the staff of the Seattle Seahawks before returning to the college ranks at Oregon State (1999-2002). He returned to the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers (2003-04) prior to joining Washington Redskins (2005-08). Lappano then spent five seasons with the Detroit Lions (2009-2013) prior to joining Georgia State in 2014. Dan Cozzetto, Offensive Line Cozzetto (koh-ZEH-toh) […]


Arizona-native and Hotshots Head Coach Rick Neuheisel Assembles Coaching Staff Phoenix, Ariz. – October 9, 2018 – The Alliance of American Football’s Arizona Hotshots today announced additions to head coach Rick Neuheisel’s staff for the 2019 inaugural season. Nick Aliotti joins the Hotshots as the defensive coordinator, Tim Hundley will be the linebackers coach and Ron Aiken will be the defensive line coach. Chris Reinert joins Neuheisel as an offensive assistant coach, Hugh Freeze will be the offensive coordinator and Steve Axman will be the team’s quarterback coach and offensive assistant coach. “The Alliance is an incredible platform for talented players and qualified coaches looking to begin, extend or revitalize their professional careers,” said Rick Neuheisel, head coach Arizona Hotshots. “When I began curating my coaching staff to join me here in Arizona, I was looking for experienced, dynamic coaches who can help us be the team I’ve envisioned — fast, high-powered and efficient on both sides of the ball. We’re building something special here in Arizona and we want to make this state proud by excelling on and off the field come first snap.” Nick Aliotti, Defensive Coordinator A veteran of 36 seasons on the sidelines Aliotti has experience on both the collegiate and professional levels. Most known for his tenure at the University of Oregon which encompassed parts of the past five decades, Aliotti became one of the most respected defensive minds in football. He began his coaching career with Oregon (1978-79) as a graduate assistant before moving on to in-state rival Oregon State (1980-83) as the Beavers running backs coach. Following his time with Oregon State, Aliotti moved south to Chico State (1984-87) where he took over as offensive coordinator as well as the offensive line. Aliotti then moved to the defensive side of the ball as he began his second stint with the Oregon (1988-94) staff in 1988 tutoring the outside linebackers for five years before taking over the Ducks defensive backs for two seasons. He made the jump to the NFL ranks when he joined the St. Louis Rams (1995-97) as the special teams coordinator before returning to the college game as the defensive coordinator/defensive backs for UCLA (1998). Following one season with the Bruins, Aliotti returned to Oregon where he would spend the next 15 seasons as the Ducks defensive coordinator. Tim Hundley, Linebackers A seasoned coaching veteran whose career has covered five decades of college football, most recently he spent three seasons coaching linebackers and the secondary for UNLV (2012-14). Hundley’s impressive coaching resume includes 16 years calling defenses as a defensive coordinator for FBS programs, his coaching career began in 1974 as a defensive graduate assistant at his alma mater, Western Oregon State. He went on to stints at Clackamas Community College (1975-76) as defensive coordinator/secondary coach before moving on to Idaho (1977-79) as the linebackers and secondary coach for the Vandals, he continued tutoring defenses as he moved on to Nevada (1980-81) to coach the Wolfpacks secondary. Following his time at Nevada he began a stretch in what is now the Pac-12 as he joined the staff at Oregon State (1982-89) […]


Veteran Coaches and Former Pro Players Highlight Fleet Staff San Diego, Calif. – October 11, 2018 – The Alliance of American Football’s San Diego Fleet today unveiled their coaching staff under head coach Mike Martz for the 2019 inaugural season. Jon Kitna joins Martz as his offensive coordinator, Larry Marmie as defensive coordinator and Larry MacDuff will be The Fleet’s special teams and linebacker coach. Additionally,Dre Bly will be Martz’s defensive back coach, Vince Amey the defensive line coach and Anthony Becht the tight end coach. Matt Kitna will serve as an assistant offensive line coach and Az-Zahir Hakim will be The Fleet’s wide receiver coach. “I have a great deal of respect for what each of these coaches have accomplished and experienced throughout their careers and this group will help ensure that we put the best possible football product on the field each weekend in San Diego,” said Mike Martz, head coach, San Diego Fleet. “We have a unique opportunity to provide our players with a dynamic staff that can help shape their careers in ways no other league can provide. He added, “Just as The Alliance is a opportunity for players to begin, extend or continue their careers, this league also provides the same opportunity for coaches to advance their careers. With my coaching staff taking shape, we are getting closer and closer to bringing pro football back to the great city of San Diego.” Jon Kitna, Offensive Coordinator Kitna spent 14 years as a quarterback in the NFL from 1997 to 2011 with four teams; Seattle Seahawks, Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions before finishing his playing career with the Dallas Cowboys. Over the course of his career Kitna completed 2,677 of 4,442 passes for 29, 745 yards with 169 touchdowns and 165 interceptions. Following his retirement from playing, Kitna began his coaching career at his alma mater Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Washington where he recorded a 24-8 record as a head coach before taking over the coaching duties at Waxahachie (Texas) High School. While at the helm for Waxahachie Kitna posted a 20-13 record in three seasons for the Indians prior to taking over Brophy (Arizona) Prep in February 2018. Larry Marmie, Defensive Coordinator Marmie has more than four decades of coaching and scouting experience, including 19 seasons in the NFL ranks. Most recently, Marmie spent two seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2014-15) as a senior defensive assistant working with the team’s nickelbacks Prior to joining Tampa Bay’s coaching staff, he spent four seasons with Seattle (2006-09), two seasons with St. Louis (2004-05) and eight seasons with Arizona (1996-03). Marmie also spent two seasons working as a pro scout for the Oakland Raiders (2012-13). Before joining the professional ranks, Marmie spent 28 seasons coaching in the collegiate ranks, beginning his collegiate coaching career at Morehead State (1968-71), before moving on to Eastern Kentucky (1972-76), Tulsa (1977-78), North Carolina (1979-82), Tennessee (1983-84; 1992-94), Arizona State (1985-87, defensive coordinator; 1988-91, head coach) and UCLA (1995). Larry MacDuff, Special Teams / Linebackers MacDuff brings over 30 years of coaching experience to the Fleet as he has spent time with […]


Childress Adds Experienced Group to Coach Legends Along with Vick ATLANTA, Ga. – October 9, 2018 – The Atlanta Legends of the Alliance of American Football have named nine additional assistant coaches to join head coach Brad Childress’ inaugural staff. Michael Vick had been previously announced as the Legends’ offensive coordinator. The Legends have added Kevin Coyle (defensive coordinator/secondary), Jim Hofher (quarterbacks/wide receivers), Pete Metzelaars (offensive line), John Johnson (running backs), Corey Woods (tight ends) and Leroy Thompson (defensive line) to the coaching staff in the new professional football league. Miles Robinson (offensive assistant) and Tyler Anderson (defensive assistant) will serve in quality control roles. “This was a very unique opportunity for me to get back into coaching. I’ve been privileged in my 30-year coaching career to be around some of the top coaching minds,” said Childress. “When I was looking to put together my staff in Atlanta, I wanted to find a good mix of experience. This group of coaches in Atlanta have coached and played in the NFL and coached and played in Arena football. These coaches are going to give our players a great opportunity to excel at each of their positions.” “Offensively, we’re going to be a fast paced, up tempo variation of the west coast offense that Michael Vick played in and will now coach in, stretching people from sideline to sideline. Defensively, we’re going to be physical and aggressive. We’re going to have a fun brand of football for our Atlanta Legend fans.” Kevin Coyle, Defensive Coordinator / Secondary A 17-year veteran of the NFL, Coyle will join the Legends after serving as a defensive analyst for LSU. The former Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator most recently spent two seasons coaching the secondary for the Cincinnati Bengals. In 2016, Cincinnati finished just one interception short of the NFL lead with 17, and defensive backs accounted for 13 of those picks. He also brings college experience serving as a defensive coordinator at Fresno State, Maryland, Syracuse and Holy Cross. Jim Hofher, Quarterbacks / Wide Receivers Hofher owns 37 years of collegiate coaching experience, including 13 years as a head coach in Division I. He is in his third season as an offensive analyst for the Iowa State football staff. Hofher has served as a head coach twice during his career, leading Buffalo for five seasons from 2001-05 and Cornell for eight seasons in 1990-97. He holds the highest winning percentage by a coach in Cornell’s modern history and he led Buffalo to the program’s first-ever wins over opponents from the Big East (Rutgers and UConn), Conference USA (Central Florida) and independent schools (Army). Pete Metzelaars, Offensive Line Metzelaars enjoyed a 16-year playing career at tight end in the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and Detroit Lions. He played in four Super Bowls with the Bills. Metzelaars coached in the NFL 11 years after his playing career, winning a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts. He also has coached high school and in NFL Europe. John Johnson, Running Backs Johnson has coached at the collegiate level since 2009. He was a three-year letterman […]


Alabama Native and Auburn Great “Cadillac” Williams Highlights Lewis’ Inaugural Coaching Staff. Birmingham, Ala. – October 9, 2018 – The Birmingham Iron of the Alliance of American Football have named its assistant coaches to join head coach Tim Lewis’ inaugural staff. The Iron announced Steve Logan (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks), Carnell Williams (running backs), Dave Magazu (offensive line), Ray Rychleski (special teams/tight ends), Martin Bayless (secondary/assistant special teams) and Ray Hamilton (defensive line) to the coaching staff in the new professional football league. Steve Meyer (defensive assistant) will serve in a quality control coaching role. “This is a great group of coaches to be part of the first coaching staff in Birmingham Iron history,” said Lewis. “They bring a tremendous amount of coaching experience at the NFL and collegiate level. Some of them have played at the highest level and enjoyed outstanding playing careers. We wanted our players to learn from the best and that’s what I believe we found in these Iron coaches.” One of the highlights of Lewis’ first staff is Alabama native Carnell “Cadillac” Williams who starred at Auburn University after a tremendous high school career at Etowah High School in Attalla, Alabama. Steve Logan, Offensive Coordinator / Quarterbacks A 37-year coaching veteran in the NFL and at the collegiate level, Logan has enjoyed stops at Oklahoma State, Tulsa, Colorado, Mississippi State, East Carolina, Boston College at the collegiate level. He coached with Berlin and Rhein in NFL Europe and with Tampa Bay and San Francisco. Logan’s most recent stop was as quarterbacks coach for the 49ers in 2015. Logan has previously tutored three NFL-bound quarterbacks in the college ranks: Matt Ryan (Boston College), Jeff Blake (East Carolina) and David Garrard (East Carolina). He went 69-58 with five bowl appearances as East Carolina’s head coach from 1992-2002, and he was Boston College’s offensive coordinator in 2007-08. Dave Magazu, Offensive Line A 37-year NFL/NCAA coaching veteran, Magazu coached offensive line and tight ends in the NFL for 14 years. He spent the 2015 and 2016 seasons with the Chicago Bears. Magazu began his NFL coaching career with the Carolina Panthers as the tight ends coach from 2003-06 before taking over the offensive line in 2007. He coached in Carolina until 2010. He served as offensive line coach for the Denver Broncos from 2011-14 before moving on to the Bears. In 2009, Magazu’s offensive line paved the way for Panthers DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart to become the NFL’s first tandem to each rush for over 1,100 yards in a season. During his last stop with the Bears in 2016, rookie RB Jordan Howard rushed for a franchise record 1,313 yards and only six teams allowed fewer sacks. Magazu also coached at the collegiate level at Colorado State, Kentucky, Memphis and Boston College. Carnell Williams, Running Backs The overall fifth-pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2005 NFL draft out of Auburn University, Williams played six seasons for the Bucs and one season for the St. Louis Rams. He was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2005. Williams enjoyed a stellar collegiate career at Auburn, where he […]


Six Coaching Positions Filled Including Defensive Coordinator MEMPHIS, TN. – October 9, 2018 – Today, The Alliance of American Football’s Memphis Express announced six additions to head coach Mike Singletary’s staff. Dennis Thurman joins the Memphis Express as defensive coordinator and Tom Mason as linebackers coach. Matt Singletary will serve as defensive line coach and David Lee as quarterbacks coach. T. Seth Gibson will serve as a quality control coach. “We have an opportunity to build something truly special here in Memphis, and these additions to my coaching staff symbolize continued progress toward our goal of putting together a championship caliber team,” said Coach Singletary. “I have brought in knowledgeable coaches from all levels, each bringing their own expertise to the Memphis Express. We want to put our players in the best position to succeed on and off the field, and I believe the first step to accomplishing that is building a great coaching staff. Fans can expect us to be aggressive on both sides of the ball.” Dennis Thurman – Defensive Coordinator Dennis Thurman began his coaching career with the Phoenix Cardinals in 1988 where he was the defensive backs coach for two seasons. Thurman spent the next eight seasons with the USC Trojans, where he mentored multiple future NFL players including The Alliance of American Football’s head of player relations Troy Polamalu. Following his time with the Trojans, Thurman returned to the NFL, coaching defensive backs for the Baltimore Ravens (2002-2007) and New York Jets (2008-2014). Thurman spent his final two seasons with the Jets as defensive coordinator. Thurman most recently served as the defensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills (2015-2016) under head coach Rex Ryan. Tom Mason – Linebackers Coach Tom Mason began his coaching career in 1981 with Eastern Washington University where he worked with the linebackers and special teams. Over the next 35+ years, Mason held coaching positions with 12 different teams, including stints as interim head coach with Boise State and SMU, the latter following a seven year run as defensive coordinator, during which he transformed the defense into one of the nation’s best. Masonalso spent time in the CFL and XFL. Matt Singletary – Defensive Line Coach Matt Singletary, son of Memphis Express head coach Mike Singletary, started his college football career at Baylor University, where his father had played. After redshirting his freshman year, Matt played two more seasons at Baylor before transferring to West Valley College and then to California Polytechnic State University where he played 11 games at defensive end. Matt is making his coaching debut as part of the Memphis Express coaching staff. David Lee – Quarterback Coach David Lee played college football for the Vanderbilt Commodores, where he was the starting quarterback and team captain for the 1974 season. The following year, Lee began his coaching career at the University of Tennessee at Martin as the quarterbacks and wide receivers coach. Over the next 40+ years, Lee coached 12 different teams, including five seasons as head coach for the UTEP Miners and four seasons as an offensive assistant with the Dallas Cowboys (2003-2006). Lee most recently held the […]


San Antonio Commanders Name Jim Grobe Defensive Coordinator SAN ANTONIO, Texas – October 9, 2018 – The Alliance of American Football’s San Antonio Commanders today announced additions to head coach Mike Riley’s staff. Jim Grobe joins as defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach, Bill Bradley will serve as defensive backs coach and Joe Baker has been named run defense coordinator and outside linebackers coach. “We want to put our players in the best position to succeed both on and off the field, and the hiring of coach Grobe, Bradley and Baker adds decades of invaluable football experience to our staff,” said Coach Riley. “I’m proud of what we’re building here in San Antonio. We want to play fast, hard and smart, giving this city an exciting brand of football that they can rally around and enjoy.” Jim Grobe, Defensive Coordinator / Inside Linebackers Coach Jim Grobe most recently served as the interim head football coach of Baylor University for the 2016 season. He led the Baylor Bears to a seventh consecutive bowl game, defeating Boise State 31-12 in the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl. From 2001-2013 Grobe was the head football coach at Wake Forest University. In 2006, Grobe was named ACC Coach of the Year by a unanimous vote and AP Coach of the Year after guiding the Demon Deacons to an 11-2 regular season, an ACC Championship and the program’s first BCS bowl game. Bill Bradley, Defensive Backs Coach A Texas native, Bill Bradley began his coaching career as a defensive backs coach in the USFL from 1983-1985, first with the San Antonio Gunslingers and then the Memphis Showboats. From 1988-1990, Bradley was a defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator for the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL. Bradley linked up with San Antonio Commanders head coach Mike Riley in the World League of American Football as defensive back coach from 1991-1993, before returning to the CFL and winning two Grey Cups with the Toronto Argonauts. Bradley’s success led to his transition to the NFL, where he served as defensive backs coach for the Buffalo Bills (1998-2000) and New York Jets (2001-2003). He would go on to serve as defensive backs coach at Baylor University (2004-2006), secondary coach for the San Diego Chargers (2006-2008), secondary coach for the Florida Tuskers of the UFL (2009-2010), and defensive coordinator at Lamar University (2012-2014). Prior to coaching, Bradley played defensive back at The University of Texas, setting the Texas and Southwest Conference records for most interceptions in a game when he picked off Texas A&M four times his senior year. Bradley earned three All-Pro selections (1971–73) at free safety for the Philadelphia Eagles, leading the league in interceptions in both 1971 and 1972. Joe Baker, Run Defense Coordinator / Outside Linebackers Coach Joe Baker has spent the last 22 years as an NFL coach, most recently serving as the secondary coach for the Dallas Cowboys. Baker joined the Cowboys in 2012 as the assistant secondary coach. He moved to safeties in 2014, and was promoted to secondary coach in 2016. Baker started his NFL coaching career in 1995 with the Jacksonville Jaguars as […]

Over Five Hundred Players Signed to The Alliance

The Alliance of American Football has reached a milestone in player acquisition, signing over 500 players to contracts for the 2019 inaugural season. The mark was surpassed with the latest batch of signings highlighted below, bringing the total to 515 players signed to contracts. “As we get closer to our first snap on February 9th, our experienced general managers and personnel teams have been working around the clock to build their rosters and offer players a chance to begin, extend or revitalize their careers,” said Bill Polian, co-founder, The Alliance. “I know the pressure and dedication that goes into building a championship-caliber team and it’s been exciting to see our rosters fill up with talented athletes that have come from all over the country – from small universities in the Midwest to powerhouse SEC schools and successful NFL franchises. They are all vying for another shot in professional football.” “Each day, when I see the personnel notice come across my desk, I’m reminded of why The Alliance is a league of opportunity — these players deserve a chance to continue their football careers and I’m honored they chose The Alliance,” said Charlie Ebersol, co-founder, The Alliance. “With our Super Bowl champion league executives, our best-in-class coaches and general managers, these players will take the field in February prepared and supported by those who have been there before them with an opportunity to compete at a high level in front of passionate, engaged fans. We welcome these 515 players to The Alliance.” Rosters Arizona Hotshots Atlanta Legends Birmingham Iron Memphis Express Orlando Apollos Salt Lake Stallions San Antonio Commanders San Diego Fleet

Introducing the San Antonio Commanders

Introducing the Arizona Hotshots

Introducing the Salt Lake Stallions

Introducing the San Diego Fleet

Introducing the Atlanta Legends

Introducing the Memphis Express

Introducing the Birmingham Iron

Introducing the Orlando Apollos

QB Knight returns home, eager to excel

By Mark Newman Trevor Knight turns 25 on Oct. 3, and it will be hard to top his favorite birthday present of all time. “My trampoline,” he said. “That provided me with countless hours of entertainment for years and years. We used to put it up to the basketball goal and play slam-ball, and me and my brother would be out there and get into a bunch of fights, so that was probably the best one.” The new San Antonio Commanders of The Alliance of American Football are offering an opportunity that could give the old trampoline a run for its money. He would love nothing more than to bounce back into a high-impact position at the helm of an offense, and coming home to this city as a freshly signed QB is a golden opportunity. Knight should be among the fan favorites when Commanders camp opens in November. As a senior at Ronald Reagan High School, he threw for 2,092 yards and 27 touchdowns, along with 943 rushing yards for 15 TDs. He was ranked as the sixth best dual-threat quarterback recruit by the recruiting network, back then, and Knight chose to play at Oklahoma, along with twin brother and slam-ball rival Connor. As a Sooner, Knight threw for 348 yards and four TDs to win Sugar Bowl MVP honors in a 45-31 upset of Alabama, stopping the Crimson Tide in its bid for a third straight national championship. Knight took numerous big-time snaps at Oklahoma over two seasons, accumulating 3,424 yards and 25 TDs in 24 games, but losing the starting job to Baker Mayfield. Knight moved on in 2016 to Texas A&M as a graduate transfer. Knight transferred there with no guarantees, and it paid off big. Those aforementioned thoughts about his favorite birthday present came in a get-to-know-him video interview for Gigem247 that December, and it was during his rise in popularity all over the campus. In 2016, Knight started 11 games for Texas A&M, leading the Aggies to a 7-1 start and eventually an 8-5 record. He completed 53.3 percent of his passes for 2,432 yards, 19 TDS and seven interceptions. He added 614 yards and 10 TDs on the ground in his one year, leading the team in rushing as a QB. “I’m excited about the future,” Knight said at Aggies Pro Day in the spring of 2017. “You pour so much into this, day in and day out, and when it’s over, you don’t really know what’s next. My future’s not certain. Just that stability of every Saturday being able to compete, it’s tough to walk away from.” Knight showed great athleticism at the subsequent NFL Combine, outperforming all other QBs in the 40 at 4.54 seconds. He was able to show off arm strength with deep throws. He was seen as a likely mid-round draft pick or at least a free agent signee, and the latter proved true, as the Arizona Cardinals signed him to a three-year contract at $555,000 per year, but releasing him before that season began. He then made the Atlanta Falcons practice squad before being released, and […]

Sankey’s mission in San Diego: Keep running  

By Joel Poiley Draftniks will recall that Bishop Sankey was the first running back chosen in the 2014 NFL Draft, selected as the 54th player overall by Tennessee after an outstanding three-year career at the University of Washington. He was drafted ahead of Jeremy Hill, Carlos Hyde and Devonta Freeman, among others. What followed has been a five-year journey, one with peaks and valleys. The window appeared closed when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the opening preseason game with Minnesota in 2017. But the advent of The Alliance of American Football re-opened the door. San-key signed with San Diego’s newest pro team in early September. The hard-charging Sankey provided memorable moments for fans during his time at Washington, where he rushed for 3,496 yards and 37 touchdowns in three seasons. A 200-yard game against Washington State in the Apple Cup in 2013 broke Corey Dillon’s 1996 school record of 1,695 yards in a season. The same play in which he passed Dillon, on a 7-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, he also broke Napoleon Kaufman’s school rushing touchdowns record with his 35th. He finished the season with 1,870 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns. Sankey was drafted after his junior year by Tennessee when the Titans sought a replacement for Chris Johnson, who had been released the prior month and signed with the Jets. Then-Titans scout Marv Sunderland compared Sankey to former Giants star running back Tiki Barber. “He can run inside, he can get outside, he runs through guys and he can break the long runs,” Sunderland said after the Draft. “He has great hands out of the backfield, and he’s a good blocker. He is a well-rounded back.” Those attributes still apply to Sankey, a sturdy 5-feet-10, 209-pounds. His story just shows how tough it is to carve out a long career at running back, no matter how high you’re drafted. He proved to be a more than useful back during two seasons in Tennessee, rushing for 762 yards and averaging 3.8 yards per carry. However, he was cut late in training camp in 2016 when the Titans traded for DeMarco Murray and drafted Derrick Henry in the second round, bumping Sankey down the depth chart. Practice squad stops followed with New England, Kansas City and Minnesota, then the ACL injury last season. The opportunity to play with The Fleet couldn’t have come along at a better time for the still hungry RB. “One of the quotes I’ve always lived by is: ‘The race doesn’t go to the swiftest or fastest, but to the one who keeps running,’ ” Sankey said in an interview in The Spokesman-Review in Spokane in 2015. “A quote we had in the training room at Washington was, ‘Durability is more important than ability.’ ” Always goal-driven, Sankey used his off-seasons to complete his degree requirements last June. One goal down, another is still possible, thanks to The Alliance.

Robinson resumes quest to impress

By Doug Miller Khiry Robinson knows what it’s like to go above and beyond for recognition, to surprise people with an undeniable impact on the football field. The running back did it when he came out of NAIA Division II West Texas A&M to sign with the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent in 2013 after a tryout. He would go on to gain 224 yards in 10 NFL games that year and help the Saints beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the playoffs. Robinson backed up Mark Ingram in 2014 and played well in 2015 until a broken leg ended his season. He ended up gaining 766 yards while part of New Orleans coach Sean Payton’s rotation of running backs and scored eight touchdowns. Robinson broke his leg the next year in a preseason game for the Jets and continued to suffer leg injuries that led to his release from the NFL in March 2017. Now he’s back, trying to prove himself again. Robinson signed with the San Antonio franchise in The Alliance of American Football, and he’ll be ready to go when that elite-level spring-schedule venture kicks off its first regular-season games Feb. 9, 2019. Robinson has been fighting for his whole professional career. Back in 2014, at the height of his NFL presence, looking back as a product of the Canyon, Texas, program that hadn’t exactly made him a household name, Robinson told ESPN: “it was all about having faith.” “So I didn’t get drafted, I didn’t get picked up, you know,” he said then. “But it all worked out for me. I just kept my head high, kept my faith and kept working hard. And I’m here today to help the team win. I’m happy for that.” It figures to be just as tough if not tougher for Robinson now. He’s had serious leg injuries, and he’s 28 years old. But he’s also experienced. He has been through the NFL grind. He’s entering a situation where opportunity is there for him to impress the people he needs to impress. But he’s been through this before, and his words from 2014 can be repeated if he succeeds in this next opportunity. “I just wait for my number to be called,” Robinson said. “And when my number’s called, I try to do something great so I can get it called again.”

High-hopes homecoming in Arizona for ‘Berco’

By Doug Miller Football fans familiar with Sun Devil Stadium remember Mike Bercovici with a smile, and now they have the possibility of picking up where they left off with “Berco” under center. Bercovici, the popular former Arizona State quarterback, is one of the players on the roster of the new professional team that will play in Tempe, the Arizona Hotshots of The Alliance of American Football, which makes its innovative, elite-level debut on ASU’s home field in February 2019. Bercovici played quarterback for the Sun Devils from 2011-15, and in his senior season he threw for 3,854 yards and 30 touchdowns. Bercovici joins a host of other former Sun Devils on the Valley of the Sun’s AAF roster, which is packed with local flavor. Running back Demario Richard and defensive players Will Sutton, Carl Bradford and D.J. Calhoun all wore the maroon and gold of ASU in their college days. For Bercovici, it’s yet another chance at pro football after serving on NFL practice squads. Bercovici was added to the Arizona Cardinals roster after former starter Carson Palmer broke his left arm last October, and he expressed excitement at being back “home” that he will experience once again in The Alliance. “To be here is a blessing,” Bercovici told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM website. “This is obviously a place where I feel really comfortable.” Bercovici, like many of the players named on AAF rosters, went undrafted by the NFL after an excellent college career. Bercovici spent time with the Chargers, signing with them in May 2016 and going through training camp and the preseason before being waived that September. He might not have taken a snap for the Chargers, but he learned a lot from one of the longest-standing quarterbacks in the NFL, Philip Rivers, and will take that knowledge with him to the Hotshots. “Just about the Xs and Os of the game, being a leader and being the leader of an organization,” Bercovici said in an interview on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “There is so much cerebral part of the game. Everybody is talented at this level, but the terminology, multiple formations, motions … I feel really excited to take on a new playbook.” He’ll be doing it again in February in one of his favorite places.

Coach Neuheisel: Dream job in AZ

By Doug Miller Rick Neuheisel is a football lifer. It was only a matter of time before he’d try to help build a winner at home. The former star player and coach and current college broadcaster, who will be the head coach of the Phoenix-based Arizona franchise in The Alliance of American Football in its inaugural season (beginning this February), grew up sitting in the seats of Sun Devil Stadium. The home stadium of Arizona State was not far from McClintock High School in Tempe, where he starred at quarterback before heading to UCLA. Now Neuheisel is preparing to patrol the sidelines of that stadium as a professional coach in a new and exciting elite-level venture set to change football starting in the spring of 2019. “I just remember back in 1977,” Neuheisel said in the press conference announcing him as the Arizona franchise coach. “(McClintock) won the state championship, 14-9, so hoping we can rekindle that in 2019. To jump back to coaching is unbelievably exciting. “I’m pinching myself because it’s really happening. If it seems like I’m in a coma, it’s because I don’t want to be woken up.” Neuheisel has had his share of football glory. He was the MVP of the 1984 Rose Bowl while quarterback at UCLA, a pro QB with the San Antonio Gunslingers of the USFL in 1984 and ’85, and had some NFL time in 1987 with the San Diego Chargers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Neuheisel also coached at Colorado (1995-98), won a Rose Bowl as head coach of Washington (1999-2002), coached UCLA (2008-11), was quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator of the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, and has been a broadcaster since May 2012. Currently, he’s a college football analyst for CBS and a broadcaster on SiriusXM Radio. And now this. Neuheisel will be working with an experienced executive in Arizona general manager Phil Savage, and he’ll be fulfilling a dream that was set in motion as soon as he heard about what league co-founder and CEO Charlie Ebersol was trying to accomplish with The Alliance. “From the very beginning of the conversation about this … starting two years ago, he made it his life’s mission to bring a team to Arizona and the Phoenix-Tempe area,” Ebersol said at the introductory press conference. “Eventually, I said, ‘Coach, we always wanted to go to Phoenix.” But Neuheisel’s goals for the Arizona team and Ebersol’s goals for The Alliance as a whole are not just about compelling football games for a nation of fans that just can’t seem to get enough football. There’s going to be a lot more to the AAF than that. “We want to be a complement to the NFL,” Neuheisel said, and to that end, he spoke of a desire to assist players with their careers and lives after their football-playing days have come to a close. Neuheisel did the same, passing Bar exams in the state of Arizona and in Washington, D.C., between playing and coaching. But come February, the action will be on the field at Sun Devil Stadium and Neuheisel will be back with a headset, a team […]

Erickson has drive to lead Stallions

By Doug Miller Dennis Erickson isn’t big on retirement. The 71-year-old veteran of all things football, college and pro, is getting back in the game after a few years on a different path … one with golf carts. “I got tired of hooking it out of bounds and hitting it right all the time, so I thought I better get back in coaching and have a little bit of fun,” Erickson said recently during a media gathering for the announcement that he’ll be the head coach of the Salt Lake franchise in The Alliance of American Football, which makes its debut this Feb. 9. “Golf gets old after a while.”  Football doesn’t. Not for Erickson, who was the head coach at the University of Idaho from 1982-85 and again in 2006, the University of Wyoming (1986), Washington State (1987-88), the University of Miami (1989-94, including national titles in ’89 and ’91), Oregon State (1999-2002) and Arizona State (2007-2011) plus the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks (1995-98) and San Francisco 49ers (2003-04). Got all that? Good. Because there’s about to be more. And, from where Erickson stands, why not? “It’s a chance to work with players again, and enjoy the competition,” Erickson said. “As long as I can do it physically and mentally, I’m going to do it.” When Erickson “retired” on Dec. 30, 2016, after spending four years assisting University of Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham, he immediately started helping his son, Bryce, who was coaching a high school team. By then, he had fallen in love with Salt Lake City and with Rice-Eccles Stadium, where the Utah Utes play their home games in the Pac-12 conference and where the Salt Lake AAF franchise will play its home schedule. “I’m really excited about being here in Salt Lake City,” Erickson said. “The four years I worked here were four great years for me. I know The Alliance will be very successful here. Being out in that stadium and seeing those fans, there’s no better place than this football stadium.” Salt Lake is happy to have him. The team’s general manager, Randy Mueller, is a football lifer, too, having been in the pro game since 1978, when he first showed up as a Seahawks ballboy during training camp in Cheney, Wash. And Erickson said the planning behind The Alliance and the people involved, including co-founder and CEO Charlie Ebersol, co-founder Bill Polian, former players-turned-executives Troy Polamalu, Jared Allen and Justin Tuck and fellow coaches Mike Singletary (Memphis), Steve Spurrier (Orlando), Rick Neuheisel (Arizona), Mike Martz (San Diego), Mike Riley (San Antonio), Tim Lewis (Birmingham) and Brad Childress (Atlanta) has been beyond impressive. Erickson is confident their fingerprints bode well for a successful future.   “It’s people that are in it for the long haul,” Erickson said. Unlike the coach’s experiment with fairways replacing football.

Riley will prepare Commanders to fly

By Lyle Spencer The Alliance of American Football is new and exciting to Mike Riley, and to everyone else involved, but San Antonio isn’t new to him. He has coached in the Alamo City before. Taking his drive back to San Antonio to compete in a brand new league that kicks off the week following the NFL Super Bowl is as natural to Riley as breathing. It might be a cliche, but it’s as accurate as Tom Brady under pressure. Mike Riley was born to be a coach. It’s in his blood, inherited from a man, Bud Riley, who loved and coached football and passed his passion along. Like father, like son. The ride started when Mike Riley drove Corvallis High School to two Oregon state title games, winning one, and it’s been there ever since, across four decades of coaching collegians and pros. “I kind of fell in love with the idea of the team and the whole idea behind strategy and technique,” Riley said. “That’s just always what I was going to do. I never was going to be a fireman… I knew I was going to be a coach. I knew I was going to be in football from the beginning, and I’m very grateful for that.” Riley will teach athletes those techniques he has known virtually since birth, as a teen quarterback and then as a defensive back at the University of Alabama. Going back to his earliest days as a QB who could run and throw and lead, Riley has always loved a wide-open attack. San Antonio fans can expect their team to “fly around and have fun,” one of his favorite expressions. Riley jumped into coaching after his playing days ended, and it’s been a wildly entertaining ride ever since. Riley spent six years cutting his coaching teeth as a defensive coordinator at Linfield College in Oregon before moving north to coach, as his father had, in the Canadian Football League. After serving as an assistant, Riley took the head reins of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at 33, winning two Grey Cups in four seasons. Next came the San Antonio Riders of the WLAF, where he was 11-9 in two seasons before the team folded in 1993. Moving to the University of Southern California, Riley enjoyed great success as John Robinson’s offensive coordinator and QB coach. The Trojans won bowl games in three of Riley’s four seasons, and his next move brought him back to Corvallis. Riley spent two seasons as OSU’s head coach, implementing a pro-style attack and establishing a talent base that would thrive in a highly competitive conference before accepting the San Diego Chargers’ head coaching job. After three seasons with the Bolts, going 14-34, he assisted with the New Orleans Saints for a year before returning home to the work that probably best defines his career.      From 2003 through 2014, wildly entertaining Oregon State teams went 93-80, winning five consecutive bowl games and six of eight overall. Riley directed three quarterbacks who went on to play in the NFL: Sean Canfield, Matt Moore, and Derek Anderson. While he is […]

Martz, set, go: Fleet will be a force!

By Lyle Spencer Opening day in February is fast approaching for the eight-team Alliance of American Football’s inaugural season, and one thing is as clear as the perfect aerial views in the nation’s self-proclaimed most beautiful city. San Diego’s newest franchise will have a sky-high identity when the hitting, running and scoring start for real. Mike Martz, the team’s first coach, is a homegrown guy, roots firmly planted in the border city. His reputation as a master of offensive football, forged over decades, is beyond dispute. Here is a man who was far ahead of his time, a true game-changer. Schooled at Madison High School and Mesa Junior College in San Diego, Martz was a tight end with a burning desire to consume everything about the game. He would apprentice in numerous jobs before coming into national focus as an innovative mind with uncommon teaching skills. A traveling man along the lines of basketball’s Larry Brown, Martz had served seven college assistant coaching assignments before becoming the Los Angeles Rams’ quarterbacks coach in 1992 when they played in Anaheim. He took over as receivers coach in ’95 and ’96, with the team’s move to St. Louis. Moving to Washington as Redskins QB coach in ’97 and ’98, he rejoined the Rams at Vermeil’s behest to assume control of the offense. A team that was judged the worst in the National Football League in preseason evaluations improbably claimed a division title and won an epic Super Bowl XXXIV against the Tennessee Titans. “It was like when Muhammad Ali first came on the scene,” wide receiver Isaac Bruce said in a Sports Illustrated interview. Martz played an immediate role in the development of the primary sources of the Rams’ fantastic run: Warner, Faulk and wide receivers Bruce and Torry Holt. Martz took over the reins from Vermeil soon thereafter and sustained the soaring success of what was hailed as “The Greatest Show on Turf.” The Rams reached another Super Bowl, falling to New England after going 14-2 in the 2001 season. With former grocery store employee Kurt Warner emerging as a two-time NFL Most Valuable Player under Martz’s guidance and Marshall Faulk serving as an all-purpose force with few peers, the Rams brought a wide-open attack to the game that evolved into the pass-happy show now on display across the landscape. “I like running the football,” Martz said, “but I like running the football well.” Noted for his teams’ passing artistry, Martz is a big believer in balance. He made excellent use of the multiple gifts of Faulk, who established his reputation at San Diego State, when the Rams were indeed lived up to their reputation. After making the playoffs four times and going 53-32 in six seasons in St. Louis, Martz experienced health concerns, and he and the Rams became a memory. Martz turned down head coaching feelers and took his ideas and techniques to the Lions (2006-07), 49ers (2008) and Bears (2011) as an offensive coordinator. San Diego football fans have been spoiled by offensive fireworks from the very beginning. Their early Chargers, featuring the likes of Lance Alworth, Keith […]

Arizona Hotshots proudly unveiled in Valley

By Mark Newman The Grand Canyon State has a new pro football team, and its name is a bull’s-eye in Arizona, profound in its appreciation for fearlessness, skill and honor. The Alliance of American Football proudly introduces the Arizona Hotshots. The Hotshots are one of eight teams in The Alliance of American Football, and will play their games at Arizona State’s Sun Devil Stadium beginning in February. They are already eager to make their mark on the vibrant Valley sports scene. The Hotshots draw inspiration from the  more than 100 elite teams of exemplary, ferocious wildland firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service and other federal, state and county agencies, mostly located in the west. Hotshot firefighters are highly successful and an essential line of defense in battling the most serious wildfires across the country. The Arizona Hotshots will gratefully display the firefighters’ familiar cross-axe Pulaskis in their logo. The color scheme and designs tip their helmets to the heroes who confront orange-fire disasters wearing yellow helmets and shirts with dark green pants. The Hotshots recognize this is an outstanding chance to represent the region as they take on every challenge with only positive outcomes in mind. The other big step forward, of course, is the ongoing buildup of player signings, with many easily recognizable names so far. Teams have been granted territorial rights to former collegiate and NFL players, and they can also sign players who are from universities and NFL teams not designated for any of the eight Alliance franchises. “We want to make opportunities for ALL of Arizona,” Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson told the ABC affiliate in Phoenix. “We’re not selfish about ASU. If an Arizona player or a Northern Arizona player gets a chance to have preferential treatment in terms of being able to stay home along with Sun Devil players, let’s put ‘em all together and go win.” Now those players in Arizona will have one more thing in common. They will be Hotshots.

Commanders swagger into San Antonio

By Mark Newman When The Alliance of American Football announced earlier this year that San Antonio would represent Texas as one of eight teams on this exciting new stage, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said: “We are a big-league city, and The Alliance is big-league sports. This provides an opportunity for us to have a professional football team we can call our own.” Now they have a name for that team. The San Antonio Commanders. The team announced its new name on Tuesday, a big step on the road to the Commanders’ season opener Feb. 9. This much-anticipated choice appropriately reflects the essence of Military City, USA. It’s an undeniable emotional connection with a city and its people — a tribute to San Antonio’s collaborative spirit, its many victories, and its three centuries of military presence now embodied by so many Army and Air Force families. Look closely at the new team logo that comes with a new team name, and you can see why it’s time to show support. The Commanders will sport a sword on their logo, which resembles a military patch. You also see the iconic mission edifice in the logo, a nod to that rich military past and the ringing shout out: “Remember the Alamo.”  The Lone Star of Texas shines brightly at the bottom of the shield. Courage and bravery are real in San Antonio. The name stands for a stalwart defense that always makes a stand and an explosive offense with lightning-strike strength, precision control, and great protection. They wear uniforms with pride here, and the new ones will come in maroon, red and silver. The leadership of Commanders: leaders of people, leaders in the standings. A Commander is defined as “a person in authority, especially over a body of troops or a military operation.” Bowie and Travis, they were commanders. Commanders of many stripes can be found at Lockland Air Force Base, Fort Sam Houston, Camp Bullis and Randolph Air Force Base, all part of Joint Base San Antonio. There are 39,000 students who graduate each year from military training in San Antonio, and they all look to play their part, to follow the plan, to honor their Commanders and country. New head coach Mike Riley and general manager Daryl Johnston are examples of the kind of leadership experience already in place in San Antonio’s newest team. “We do look forward in the very few short months before kickoff to show the rest of the league how passionate and engaged our fans are,” Nirenberg said. “This team will become an integral part of this city, and we’ll rally around and support this team as they begin to hoist trophies throughout our streets.” The Commanders are here, and they will define success as you’d expect in a city of champions. Their spirit, that of their community and the pro football games headed this way: A proud tribute to teamwork, resolve, innovation and sacrifice. That’s how the games are played in Military City, USA.

Honored to be in SD: Fleet is born!

By Mark Newman San Diego’s has long been known for its strong and inspiring Naval community. With unmistakable recognition of that, there’s a new pro football team in town, here to honor that historic ongoing connection. Introducing the San Diego Fleet, one of eight teams in The Alliance of American Football, which begins its debut season in February. The Fleet made the announcement at a news conference on Tuesday, and everywhere you look is a tribute to that rich local heritage. “San Diego is a football city,” said Charlie Ebersol, co-founder of The Alliance. “It’s deeply ingrained in the culture of the city.”  The tradition of pro football gets a fresh start in San Diego, fitting right in with the region’s majestic, endearing reputation off the field. The San Diego Fleet has a clear mission: Win, offensively and defensively, with firepower, strength and ingenuity. Fleets sail together, and this team will exude the kind of teamwork that’s made the city it calls home famous. Naval Base San Diego is a workplace for more than 35,000 personnel and 54 ships. The Fleet, naturally, sports a Naval-inspired theme. The logo shows appreciation for local shipmen and shipwomen, with a single chevron that pays tribute to hard-working petty officers and to battleships from the Pacific fleet. The colors and typography are unique to professional athletics, mirroring those of Navy ships and the signature San Diego sunshine and Battleship Gray. The Fleet are going to blend into this community just fine. Welcome the San Diego Fleet to the pro sports world.

Salt Lake Stallions: Bold new team is born!

By Mark Newman Salt Lake City has always had a bond with horses, both equine and automotive. Now the city has a team with a name that reflects its unique relationship with the history and the future of horsepower. The Salt Lake Stallions are a new team in The Alliance of American Football and begin play in February 2019 at Rice-Eccles Stadium.  The team name became official on Tuesday, and the thinking behind it, naturally, was inspired by local imagery and lore. The new logo is inspired by the hood ornaments that adorned some of the fastest vehicles that raced across Bonneville. The shimmering silver of the whitecap mountaintops blends with the blue Salt Lake sky for a picturesque color scheme. Today’s pro football player is a sight to behold in his stature, exuding confidence and earning fans. The Alliance as a whole is determined to do the same as the country’s favorite sport expands its footprint and calendar at the elite professional level. Head coach Dennis Erickson said recently that “The Alliance is about building a dynamic relationship between players, fans and the game,” and the selection of a team name was one of the first such manifestations. The Alliance invited fans to suggest names on social media in all eight markets. Stallions were the perfect fit. “Our focus on the football side has always been on building the team on the field,” Stallions General Manager Randy Mueller said. “We have been working very hard to put the best group of players together so Coach Erickson and his staff can bring them together and turn the individuals into a ‘team’. Now that we have our identity with name and logo, we hope to bring this same energy to the rest of the Salt Lake area that we have felt internally since Day 1.” The Stallions are about being the fastest on the football field and combining that with equally impressive brute force. That is the Stallion, fast and free, breeding confidence and a winning tradition.

GM eyes team SL ‘can be proud of’

By Doug Miller It’s hard to imagine Randy Mueller knew where his football career would take him when he was a ballboy at Seattle Seahawks training camp in Cheney, Wash., in the summer of 1978. What Mueller does know: Where he is now is exciting and new. Mueller, a veteran of four decades in the NFL, is the new general manager of the new Salt Lake franchise of the new elite-level spring pro-football platform, The Alliance of American Football. When you consider all that preparation in traditional pro football circles, you might find it surprising that Mueller sees The Alliance as a challenge he’s waited his whole career to take on. “Most of us on the football side have been involved with rebuilding franchises before at the NFL level. This has been extremely challenging in that we are doing it from scratch,” Mueller said. “Hopefully it makes it that much more satisfying when it all comes together. Our hope is to give Salt Lake something they can be proud of.” He’s already been there, done that when it comes to assembling successful football teams. He made it all the way from ballboy to Seattle’s vice president of football operations, a job he held until 1999. He was the one who selected future Hall of Fame offensive tackle Walter Jones with the sixth overall pick in the 1997 Draft. Mueller then went on to become GM of Football Operations for the New Orleans Saints in 2000, quickly won the NFC West crown and notched the franchise’s first playoff victory in his first year on the job. Mueller was an NFL analyst on ESPN from 2002-05 before jumping back into the front office of the Miami Dolphins, where he served as GM from 2005-07.  Mueller then went to the Chargers in 2008, and he had been an executive with that team, in San Diego and subsequently Los Angeles until The Alliance called. Mueller jumped at the chance to get involved with the AAF because he believes in the mission and the people involved, from co-founder and CEO Charlie Ebersol to football guru and co-founder Bill Polian to the former NFL players all putting their knowledge and effort into running The Alliance, including Troy Polamalu, Jared Allen and Justin Tuck. He’s already been working hard evaluating players and getting them on the roster, and he says it’s not hard to find high-upside players who can develop and dazzle in The Alliance. Mueller has a veteran head coach at the helm of Salt Lake, Dennis Erickson, and he has a roster full of players he’s excited to see on the field at Rice-Eccles Stadium, the home of the University of Utah and, come February, home of the Salt Lake Stallions. Mueller has been in the communities of Seattle, New Orleans, Miami and Southern California. Now he’s ready for Utah.Mueller said, “we hope to bring this same energy to the rest of the Salt Lake area that we have felt internally since Day 1.”

Commanders’ GM Johnston a Texas treasure

By Mark Newman It remains to be seen whether Daryl Johnston will try to help keep the tradition of the fullback position alive as he assembles this San Antonio Commanders roster along with head coach Mike Riley for the first season of The Alliance of American Football starting in February. All “Moose” wants is to build another Texas pro football tradition and help aspiring players reach their dreams in the process, the way he did a few decades back. “It’s been a long time since San Antonio has been able to call a football team their own at the professional level,” said Johnston, the Commanders’ new general manager and a Dallas Cowboys legend. “We were really excited to be a part of this, and I know Mike Riley has made the statement, and I’m the same way, this has been a great opportunity for both of us, but we weren’t going to do this if it wasn’t going to be in the city of San Antonio. Mike has ties from his previous time here, and my tie is just being in the state of Texas and understanding that it was very important for us to be an important part of San Antonio.” The Commanders have a majority of the Texas college territorial imprint through the new player allocation process. There will be plenty of local and regional ties to help attract fans to the new team, based on roster signings so far, and having Johnston in a leadership position helps steer that popularity. “There are so many talented athletes who are right on the cusp of making an NFL roster, but for one reason or another end up on a practice squad or out of football completely,” Johnston said. “We’re going to give them the chance to show the football world what they can do, that they do belong. A number of these guys are from the great state of Texas, where football is a way of life, and we look forward to having them in San Antonio uniforms.” Johnston, 52, earned three Super Bowl rings with Dallas before going onto a successful broadcasting career, one he will hold onto as a FOX Sports analyst while serving in this new capacity. Troy Aikman, Jimmy Johnson, Michael Irvin, Deion Sanders, Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Don Meredith and even Roger Staubach tried their hand at broadcasting after their Cowboys days, many of them to longtime acclaim, but Johnston is unique in that he now re-enters the game in an executive capacity. You’re not likely to find another Daryl Johnston on the Commanders roster, as fullbacks are few and far between. But you definitely will find a Daryl Richardson, the former NFL running back from Abilene Christian. Or former NFL running back Khiry Robinson from West Texas A&M. They are more of the prototype backs, the kinds Johnston can easily size up with his top-notch football IQ. Johnston cleared a path for all-time NFL rushing leader Emmitt Smith in those heady days, and many people will never forget the part of Smith’s 2010 Hall of Fame speech where he had Johnston stand up […]

Arizona GM Phil Savage has big-time history

By Doug Miller Phil Savage traveled around the training camps of the NFL in August. He paced around the sidelines at preseason games. He talked to coaches and executives and players and whoever else wanted to give him valuable information. He searched for talent nationwide. He was back in the scouting game in professional football, and it had to feel good. Savage played and coached in college, coached in the NFL, ran his own NFL team as a senior vice president and general manager (the Cleveland Browns from 2005-08), worked in the front offices of the Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles, spent nine years broadcasting for the University of Alabama, and had a six-year stint as executive director of the Senior Bowl. He also wrote a book called “Fourth and Goal Every Day.” That’s a lot of years being around the game he loves. Now he’s on board at the start of something new, bold and innovative. He’s the GM of the Arizona Hotshots in The Alliance of American Football, and he’s delighted about it, particularly after spending the summer watching the NFL gear up for its season. “I think that obviously, we’ve got to get ourselves off the ground and get going,” Savage said in a recent interview on CBS Sports Radio. Savage, 53, is no stranger to helping build championship teams. He’s been among some of the sharpest minds in the sport. In 1991, he was hired by then-Cleveland coach Bill Belichick to join the Browns staff. He worked alongside Belichick and assistant coach Nick Saban, among others, and saw how attention to detail and relentless preparation pays off down. After Savage followed late Cleveland owner Art Modell to Baltimore in 1995 to begin a new chapter with the Ravens, he played a role in drafting numerous star players, including linebacker Ray Lewis, offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, safety Ed Reed, linebacker Terrell Suggs and running back Jamal Lewis. Those results speak quite loudly for themselves. The Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2000 and again in 2012 with Hall of Famer Lewis anchoring both defenses and Ogden winning a ring in 2000 and serving as honorary captain of the ’12 team. “Phil’s experience as an NFL coach, scout, player personnel executive and general manager is exactly what is needed to build a championship-caliber team from scratch,” said J.K. McKay, Head of Football Operations for The Alliance. “Over the course of his career he has shown a knack for identifying top talent, and we look forward to him doing the same” in Arizona. “There are really good people involved in it,” Savage said in the CBS appearance. “The timeline works. Our season runs February through April. … “This is going to be an option for players to get better.” Savage says he’s been enjoying the ramp-up to the unique spring season and the opportunity The Alliance represents for fans and players alike.

Former Jets RB Stacy runs for the Express

If you were watching Monday Night Football on Oct. 28, 2013, you probably had Zac Stacy pegged for stardom and might even have celebrated his status on your fantasy team. On that night, he was a Rams rookie running wild against a stingy Seattle defense, finishing with 26 carries for 134 yards, on his way to back-to-back 100-plus performances. Stacy’s professional path did not turn out to be nearly as easy as it was through the Seahawks defense that night, but five years later he has a new lease on football life. He will try to reinvent himself and realize that demonstrated potential as a running back just signed by the new Memphis team in The Alliance of American Football. Stacy was drafted out of Vanderbilt by the Rams in the fifth round (160th overall) in 2013, and he made an immediate impact as a rookie. That season, he rushed 250 times for 973 yards and seven touchdowns and another 141 yards receiving. His NFL peak came in that MNF game, and the next week, he ran for 127 yards on 27 rushes and two TDs. His rushes declined from 250 to 76 in 2014, though, and the Rams caused a stir by selecting running back Todd Gurley in the 2015 NFL Draft. Stacy tweeted the simple word “yikes” upon seeing that first-round selection as his obvious replacement . . . and promptly requested a trade. The Rams accommodated him, sending Stacy to the Jets in exchange for New York’s 2015 seventh-round pick. Stacy appeared in eight games for the Jets, carrying 31 times for 89 yards, but broke an ankle against the Bills on that Nov. 12. He went on injured reserve a day later, and the Jets released him the next summer after he failed a physical. Stacy announced his retirement from the NFL on Instagram, and came out of retirement this past May to sign with Saskatchewan of the Canadian Football League. That figured to be his comeback. He led the team in rushing in both preseason games, with 51 yards on 11 carries, yet lost out to Tre Mason in the battle for that job, despite more usage. “He’s tough. He’s gritty. And he’s got unbelievable hands. He can get out of the backfield and do some things,” Saskatchewan running backs coach Kent Maugeri said. “The way he carries himself, he’s a pro. You don’t have to worry about him.” Now The Alliance offers Stacy a new chance to earn back that spotlight and possibly reach the potential he showed everyone with 3,143 rushing yards at Vandy and then with his initial NFL splash. He might look a little different, though, because he tweeted on Sept. 19: “I’ve been locked in for so long I done got dreads ….” One thing hasn’t changed about Stacy, and that is his positive perspective. He has a lot of it, thanks largely to growing up with a younger brother, Justin, who has Down Syndrome. “Absolutely, my brother Justin just teaches me that it’s bigger than football sometimes,” Stacy said. “You’ve got to get outside that bubble a little bit, […]

Vick chases title as Legends’ offensive coordinator

By Joel Poiley Michael Vick always respected the mentors and coaches who helped him throughout his college and professional football career. They left such an impression, that as Vick’s impressive 13-year career wound down, he realized he wanted to help young players the same way. He expressed that interest when he played for Andy Reid in Philadelphia, and Reid, now coaching in Kansas City, invited Vick to assist during the Chiefs’ 2017 training camp. As good fortune had it, former Minnesota head coach Brad Childress was helping Reid as an offensive analyst and assistant coach. Childress and Vick had a pre-existing bond, and when Childress was named head coach for the Atlanta franchise of the Alliance of American Footbal this last April, he knew Vick was a great fit as his offensive coordinator. “First of all, he’s a great, great competitor. I respect that fact,” Childress said about Vick. “Having coached against him, he has jumped us a couple times. And we jumped on him a couple times. So there’s that camaraderie there. “Last year, Andy brought him in as a coaching assistant for training camp. When he spoke in the quarterback room, everybody from Alex Smith to Chase Daniel to anybody who was in there, they all turned and listened. “It was obvious the respect he commanded. He knew our offense and could spit it out verbatim. So I’m very excited to have him as our offensive coordinator.” For Vick, getting his first full-time coaching opportunity with Childress, in the city he starred in the first six years of his dynamic career, made perfect sense. “My heart is really into teaching the game of football,” Vick said. “I feel like I’ve learned so much from so many great coaches over the years. I would definitely love to work with young quarterbacks and develop them and compete for a championship. “(The Alliance) is a process about what it takes to become a complete football player, on and off the field. You’re not in college anymore; you’re not going to class. Your full-time job is football. And that creates structure for you.” “But at the same time, you have to know what you want out of the game. As players and coaches, we’ve all experienced the importance of being a professional. That’s a responsibility we take seriously, and we look forward to watching these young men grow from college to pro and continue their careers as long as they want.”     Childress said he’s looking forward to working with Vick because their coaching styles mesh well. “Just having been out there, behind everything, he’s going to have an idea what our guys can do and he’ll know when to call a screen, when to call a draw and when to run by the corner because he [the cornerback] can’t run,” Childress said. Sometimes players who achieved at an extraordinarily high level – which Vick definitely did –  have difficulty translating that knowledge to next-generation players. But Vick, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 NFL draft, is all in on the transition from player to coach. “Now I can watch […]

Richardson brings ‘Iron’ will to Birmingham

By Mark Newman The last time Trent Richardson ran the football for a team in the state of Alabama, it worked out pretty well for everyone involved. He finished third in the 2011 Heisman Trophy voting, rushing for more than 100 yards in six straight games and leading the Crimson Tide to their third national championship in a four-year span. He was compared to Earl Campbell among other legends, and was considered a can’t-miss running back when the Cleveland Browns drafted him No. 3 overall in 2012 and gave him a guaranteed four-year, $20.4 million contract. For Richardson, at least, what happened after that is all well-known and water under the bridge: four NFL teams and a stint in the Canadian Football League. But now comes The Alliance of American Football, with an opportunity to come back home and start anew. Richardson was signed by the Birmingham team, which will play its game in front of Bama fans galore at Legion Field, until a new stadium near Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex is ready, likely for 2021. “Excited about this,” Richardson said to after signing. “Another opportunity for my professional career. Happy to be doing something that I really love doing, especially in Alabama and in Birmingham, which is a home away from home for me.” If anywhere is a right match for Richardson in his bid to restore his good name among football fans, it is unquestionably with the Iron and at a field near Tuscaloosa. Richardson rushed for 950 yards as an NFL rookie, but the Browns traded him to Indianapolis for a first-round pick the following year. The Colts waived him after the 2015 season. He immediately signed a two-year contract with the Raiders, but didn’t make their regular-season roster. Richardson joined the Ravens for the preseason in 2016, but that didn’t extend beyond the exhibition schedule. Richardson’s NFL stats stand at 2,032 yards on 614 career carries over 46 games. He spent one season with Saskatchewan of the CFL before he was granted his release on Aug. 15 so he could join The Alliance. With Birmingham, Richardson will play for someone who can identify with being a high draft pick whose NFL career is shorter than expected. The team’s new coach, Tim Lewis, was the 11th player chosen overall out of the University of Pittsburgh by Green Bay in 1983. Lewis played four seasons before having his career halted after a head-to-head collision with Bears receiver Willie Gault. The Alliance has a unique personnel acquisition system, and Richardson is precisely where both an organization and a player can benefit. Players are allocated to The Alliance based on their college footprint, and that includes the following schools: Alabama, Auburn, South Carolina, Mississippi State, Louisiana Tech, NC State, Maryland, Missouri, UAB, South Alabama, Troy, Alabama A&M, Alabama State, Jacksonville State, Samford, Miles College, North Alabama, Tuskegee and West Alabama. If a player’s college is outside The Alliance footprint, the selection process moves to phase 2 — based on their most recent NFL or CFL team. “If the Birmingham team has Trent Richardson,” The Alliance co-founder Bill Polian told ESPN […]

Express LB Alexander ‘eager to get started’

By Mark Newman When the Memphis team in The Alliance of American Football signed Donnie Alexander to a new contract, one of his first official acts was to ask a former Louisiana State teammate for some advice. “Honestly, this is going to be my first time going to Memphis,” Alexander said. “I don’t know too much about the place, but what I remember from my partner Big Frank, who played at LSU with me, it’s a good place to play, a good city.” “Big Frank” is Frank Herron, a Memphis native who was one of the final preseason cuts by the New England Patriots and subsequently added to the Seattle Seahawks’ practice squad and then released on Sept. 11. Memphis residents jumped in on Alexander’s Twitter comments, recommending several barbecue joints. As fans get to know the large battalion of former LSU players who will be preparing for The Alliance’s inaugural season starting a week after the Super Bowl, they will no doubt notice Alexander. He is from New Orleans and has Mardi Gras style and panache. As a senior inside linebacker last season, Alexander was a sartorial superstar, starting the “suit n sack” tradition by wearing a suit with a peacock as he came off the team bus. The 2018 Tigers are continuing his tradition, while Alexander gets to know his own new town and people. “I’m extremely excited about it because this has given me another opportunity to reach my ultimate goal,” Alexander said in his “Meet The Alliance” video selfie. Alexander wears some familiar LSU gear in the video, keeping him connected to heady college days. As a senior, he registered 51 tackles (12 alone in a win over Arkansas), one sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He missed the bowl games against Notre Dame (shoulder). Now he will be playing for one of the greatest linebackers in NFL history, Memphis coach Mike Singletary. “I’m just eager to get started,” Alexander said. Other former LSU players around him will include quarterback Zach Mettenberger, running back Kenny Hilliard, tight end Colin Jeter, defensive end Deondre Clark and kicker Josh Jasper.

Aiming high! Introducing the Orlando Apollos

By Mark Newman The Sun doesn’t set on football in early February anymore, and it certainly never has in the great state of Florida. At the center of it all is something entirely new: The Orlando Apollos. The Alliance of American Football began rolling out official team names on Thursday and Orlando’s announcement was a nod to a god. Specifically, the team takes its name from Apollo, the Greek god of sun and light, depicted with an arrow pointing East toward Florida.  The warm Florida sunshine is reflected in the orange hues in the Orlando Apollos’ logo. “I like it a lot,” said Michael Waddell, President of the Apollos. He went on to talk about why, about the characteristics of Apollo, the look, the power, the passion. “Apollo is the best.” The sunshine state’s new professional football franchise is blazing hot off the presses, a glowing testament to the power, imagery and energy made possible by the Sun. They are the Apollos, precision marksmen certain of their arrows, befitting a Steve Spurrier-coached offense. Aggressive, energetic and skillful men in motion, a passionate fan base awaiting. Orlando Apollos.  The name summons the energy and power of the sun and an aim for the stars.  Roster signings are well underway, and the Apollos begin play in February, a week after the Super Bowl. Waddell’s creative wheels are spinning now that the word is out, and he spoke with his signature high energy about what the Apollos represent: aiming high, coming in hot, god-of-the-Sun visuals, a wow factor that is heroic and uniquely Orlando. “That needs to be emphasized,” he said. “This is Orlando’s team. It’s going to be awesome.”

It’s here! ‘Get on board the Memphis Express’

By Mark Newman The Memphis Express has arrived! The city’s new team in The Alliance of American Football revealed its name on Thursday, and make no mistake: This is all about being the best. It is a team in a city on the fast track to making a difference, proud of its famous heritage, excited by its future, strong and never settling. “The name stands for progression, passion and fun, which are all traits that I find in the everyday Memphian,” said Kosha Irby, President of the Express. “The city will be able to connect with this name and this identity because I think it truly represents not only today, but the future.”  The red, white, and blue in the logo reflect Memphis’ place at the heart of America. As for when fans should get excited, Irby did not hesitate. “Today is the day to get on board the Memphis Express,” he said. Speed is of the essence, because speed is the essence.   Fast, unstoppable up the middle, and reliable — like a high-speed train or jet or breakthrough. And this rush comes with a schedule as well, one that begins in February, one week after the Super Bowl. The Express was one of four teams that celebrated its name reveal on Thursday, along with the Atlanta Legends, Birmingham Iron and Orlando Apollos. The other four teams in The Alliance will be announced soon. In Memphis specifically, excitement builds as more and more players are signed to a roster that will be coached by Hall of Famer Mike Singletary. Under his leadership and that of GM Tim Lewis and Irby, the Express is all about the pairing of precision and urgency. Memphis moves swiftly, purposefully, determined to move forward, to raise the bar and earn respect every day. Anyone who walks the city’s streets knows what this great American town is made of. It’s on the cutting edge in medicine, music and logistics, and Memphis does whatever it takes to bring delight. The football team pledges to be no different: The Memphis Express, performing gracefully, successfully and in record time. Memphis dreams big. This team. This place. On the fast track. Anything less is not acceptable.

The Atlanta Legends: Here to make history!

By Mark Newman The Atlanta Legends. Perfect. Think of Hank Aaron, Bobby Jones, Bill Elliott, Alan Jackson, Gladys Knight, Herschel Walker, Michael Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., Jimmy Carter, Stone Mountain, Dominique Wilkins, Ty Cobb, Michael Vick, Ted Turner, Uga, peanuts, pecans, peaches, sweet tea and Vidalia onions. Think of Muhammad Ali lighting the 1996 Olympic flame and touching the hearts of everyone around the world while shining a light on Georgia, or a piano player from Albany named Ray Charles who had everyone singing about moonlight through the pines. Introducing the Atlanta Legends, one of eight new teams in The Alliance of American Football. The Legends will be ready to roll next February, the weekend immediately following the Super Bowl in – you guessed it, Atlanta. In a salute to so much hallowed history, the team is all in on its new name, announced Thursday morning. “We certainly feel Legends is an appropriate nickname for a team associated with Atlanta — a city where legends are quite literally made,” said David Livingston, President of the Atlanta Legends. “So many great personalities, stories and interesting slices of Americana have come out of Atlanta over the years with one of the richest histories in the country. The name symbolizes a larger-than-life identity and in many ways, our players and fans will embody that same passion each week in purple, gold and white.” This is where Legends are made, where larger-than-life greatness happens. The name goes beyond sports. The name covers Georgia as a whole. Its people persevere, they go big. Whether it’s the agriculture, the majestic Appalachian Mountains, the jaw-dropping Atlantic coast or the importance in the Civil Rights movement, there is no disputing Atlanta’s connections to Legends of all kinds. Look no farther than the team’s coaching staff. Vick is the Legends’ offensive coordinator under head coach Brad Childress. “We have one of the greatest legends in the history of professional football in our offensive coordinator, Michael Vick,” Livingston said. “Along with the head coach, Brad Childress, a storied coach who has spent half his life shaping young men in the NFL, they are going to put together a roster and a program that will present one of the most entertaining football shows in a city that is hungry for more football. We want to meet that expectation every single game.” This is the way of the Atlanta Legends. Greatness goes through here.

Hall pass? ‘Speedy’ aims to impress Orlando

By Joel Poiley As Rannell Hall lay on the ground in August of 2016 after suffering a broken fibula in the Cleveland Browns’ first preseason game, it would have been easy for him to think the football Gods didn’t have it in the cards for him to reach his goal of playing pro football. Hall was having an excellent training camp and opening eyes trying to earn a roster spot. But the injury was another hurdle Hall would have to overcome. Nothing new really. From his time excelling at Miami’s Carol City High through a brilliant four-year career at wide receiver for the University of Central Florida (UCF), Hall’s career has been about proving the naysayers wrong. Hall wasn’t highly recruited out of high school, and he was not drafted out of UCF after graduating in 2015. That despite amassing 959 total yards receiving, rushing and returning kickoffs as a senior. He concluded his collegiate career with four receptions for 113 yards in the Fiesta Bowl, including an electrifying 50-yard play where he took a short out pass behind the line of scrimmage from Blake Bortles and broke numerous tackles en route to the score. He added a 34-yard TD reception, helping the Knights defeat Baylor 52-42. Everything was on display for NFL scouts and general managers that day – Hall’s speed, moves, toughness and desire. The desire wasn’t reciprocated, leaving Hall undrafted. Nicknamed Speedy, Hall signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent in May of 2015 but was waived in September and signed to their practice squad. Still trying to catch a break, Hall, sturdy at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, signed with Cleveland in December of 2015. He was placed on the active roster for the final three games of the regular season. The one professional game in which he played was the season finale against Pittsburgh. No catches came his way. Hall persevered and impressed in the Browns’ 2016 training camp before his injury, forcing him to miss the entire season. Frustration didn’t stop him. Hall he didn’t have time for the pain, applying the same intensity and dedication to his rehab as he was known for during his playing days at UCF. “It was a tough journey; had its ups and downs,” Hall said upon returning to the Browns in 2017. “I was still coming in every day going over the playbook, working with the coaches and players to stay involved. I viewed the injury as a positive because it built character within me.” Cleveland re-signed Hall early in 2017, only to cut him loose in September after he nearly made the team. The Atlanta Falcons signed Hall to their practice squad last January only to cut him three weeks later. As Hall spoke postgame after catching a touchdown in a Browns preseason game last year, he tightly clutched the ball. Now 25, Hall is no longer a youngster in football terms, but the game still has its hold on the guy they called “The Underdog” as an alter ego at UCF. The clock was ticking for Hall to achieve his dream. But when The Alliance was […]

Kick Six Chris Davis back in Birmingham

By Mark Newman Chris Davis is already a football legend in the state of Alabama, his iconic “Kick Six” photos hanging on the walls of Auburn faithful and not so much around Tuscaloosa. Whatever he does with the new Birmingham team in The Alliance of American Football, it will be phenomenal if it falls into the same category of notoriety he already knows so well. But there is life after the 109-yard touchdown return that somehow ended the 2013 Iron Bowl, and you kind of can’t wait to see what Davis does next. Or more accurately, how much football fans in these parts will appreciate seeing him in uniform. Just think, there might be Bama fans cheering in the stands to see him playing for them at Legion Field – playing cornerback, maybe even going back in the end zone on a long field-goal try. Five years have passed, and the Kick Six is the stuff of legend. Fourth-ranked Auburn (10-1) was playing the two-time defending national champion Crimson Tide (11-0), and Bama coach Nick Saban called for a 57-yard field goal attempt after Auburn tied the score at 28-28. Cade Foster’s kick fell short, and Davis brought it out. He got an edge, then downfield, a key block that gave him open grass. It was one of the best finishes in sports, period. “The day after the game: Twitter followers, that Monday going into class, getting a standing ovation, man it was crazy,” Davis said in an Auburn Football podcast last year, recalling the moment he realized the magnitude of the Kick Six. “It was life-changing around campus. You walk around campus as a defensive player, people barely know who you are. They rarely come up and ask for autographs. But after that play, I felt like Cam Newton.” Davis, Newton and that Auburn team took that 2013 title, a smudge on Bama’s long stretch of dominance. Now Davis is on a roster representing the entire state of Alabama, and maybe beyond, one of eight teams in The Alliance. It’s funny, because you know someone in this Birmingham crowd probably was responsible for one of those Twitter posts photoshopping Davis’ foot to make it look like he stepped out of bounds that game. “I saw a lot of them and laughed at them. They were everywhere,” he said. “If you were on social media, you couldn’t help but see them. I just laughed because I knew I didn’t step out of bounds. But that’s how it is, Alabama and Auburn. The biggest college football rivalry.” Davis said he was “just hoping there was no flag on the play. That was the first thing going through my mind, hoping no flag on the play.” Last month, someone actually recreated the play using LEGO bricks. And right around the same time, the Tampa Bay Bucs literally recreated the play in a preseason game, prompting even more Kick Six references. It goes on. Now the star of the play is one of the names that jump out on the Birmingham roster, one of many Iron Bowl names. He was signed by the […]

Birmingham shows its strength with the Iron

By Mark Newman Get ready, Birmingham, for your new professional team, on a stage that gives us top-flight football for three additional months a year. Not to mention brings together two huge rivals — Alabama and Auburn, with players coming together in black, steel grey and silver.  The Birmingham Iron has arrived. Iron is one of three elements needed to make steel and make no mistake: This franchise is all about chemistry, both on the field and in the community. Long ago, fans in Alabama established their love for toughness, strength, durability and success on a foundation built to stand the test of time.   Birmingham’s proud history, its track record of behemoth beams and high-rising structures throughout the world, symbolizes hard work, brawn and trust. Meet your Birmingham Iron of The Alliance of American Football. The Alliance has eight teams, beginning play this February, and brings to Birmingham a franchise all its own, with familiar faces running the show and a name rooted in local history. The bottom line is simple. The Birmingham Iron, an Iron fist in the Alliance of American Football, promises a brand of football that will make Alabama proud.

Iron hoss: Birmingham GM Joe Pendry

As if Birmingham needs another reason to get geared up for the launch of The Alliance of American Football this February, here’s a big one. Joe Pendry is your team’s General Manager. And first of all, he is a fan of Birmingham. “To be in Birmingham with the Birmingham Iron, I think that’s a very appropriate name for our team because of the people in the city of Birmingham,” Pendry said on Wednesday, the eve of the team’s name reveal. “They citizens here are hard working and dependable, and the city is that way. It’s aggressive and progressive, from the mayor to the business community and football fans. I’m really excited about this.” All of that matters. But so does this: Joe Pendry became a key figure in The Alliance brain trust for the best of reasons. He cares about the sport to which he’s dedicated his life and the players who deserve the chance to perform at a higher level. “That’s what’s so exciting about it,” Pendry said. “There are so many players who never get the opportunity. Or, if they do have the opportunity in pro football, they might not last long because of an injury, because of being in the wrong place with a stacked deck of personnel, or various and sundry reasons.” Pendry is a rock star in the sport. He has worked for seven NFL teams and five major college programs, including Alabama from 2007-2010 as Assistant Head Coach. When he talks football, it more than probably is a good idea to take notes. The players he’s talking about now are part of a numbers game. And they’re bona fide professional football players. Looking back at how The Alliance started stocking its rosters, Pendry puts himself in the players’ cleats. “Each of them was one of 70,000 players playing college football,” Pendry said. “There are 1,700 on NFL rosters. So there are so many guys out there who can play the game and, for one reason or another, we’re going to get the guy who is a first-year rookie with no pro experience. We’re going to give that player a chance. We’re going to give a player who has bounced around two or three different teams a chance. And we’re going to give a player who has played four or five years a chance. “So you can start or revitalize careers, and it is an honor for me to be a part of that.” Iron will, the quality Pendry seeks like a metal detector. The nobility of job creation aside, Pendry knows The Alliance is onto something bigger. It starts with a quality product that’s fun to watch. It has the added benefit of competing against peers, famous ones. The other GMs. The coaches. The recognizable players. “With the people in this league and the experience they have, I’m grateful and looking very forward to what’s in store.” The cutting-edge aspects of The Alliance include gobs of data and access to real-time information about players’ performances. And beyond technical enhancements, there’s this impossible-to-argue upside: At a minimum, millions of fans of the sport get three […]

Lewis honored at helm in Birmingham

By Joel Poiley A skilled cornerback, Tim Lewis was known for his hard-hitting and ball-hawking defense during his four seasons in the NFL from 1983-86 with the Green Bay Packers. He’ll bring those same intense traits as Birmingham’s head coach in the new Alliance of American Football (AAF) when it begins play next February. Lewis spoke passionately about what attracted him to the AAF and his first head coaching position when he was introduced to the Birmingham community in June. “That vision that Charlie Ebersol, Bill Polian, Troy Polamalu, Justin Tuck and the other former players who are involved had of putting high quality football on the field in the spring, fueled by an alliance between the players, the fans and the game itself, really excites me,” Lewis said. “I’m humbled and honored to get this opportunity.” A first-round pick of the Packers (11th player chosen overall) in 1983 out of the University of Pittsburgh, Lewis led or shared the team lead in interceptions in his rookie year and 1985, totaling 16 for his career. Packer fans will recall his 99-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Los Angles Rams in 1984.    His career was cut short by a severe neck injury suffered in a Monday Night game against Chicago in the third week of the 1986 season. He wanted to continue playing, but doctors told him he would risk permanent paralysis after they discovered he had a narrow spinal cord. He retired two days after the injury. The 57-year-old Lewis began his coaching career in 1987 at Texas A&M with his former college coach at Pittsburgh, Jackie Sherrill. He later became defensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers (2000-2003) and New York Giants (2004-2006). His 20-plus years of coaching also included stints at Atlanta, Carolina and Seattle as either a secondary or defensive backs coach. Birmingham will play its AAF games at historic Legion Field, home to the University of Alabama Blazers and site of many memorable college games, including the annual Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama for many years.   The upbeat Lewis said given how AAF teams will look for local talent, he expects fans to flock to games to see familiar faces. “By the allocation of players and by the way we’re going to pick and put our teams together, I couldn’t think of a better hotbed of football than this area of the country,” Lewis said. “We’ve got Alabama, we’ve got Auburn, we’ve got universities around here locally that will help us put our team together in a fantastic and dynamic way. “When you sit in the stands with your family and you’re watching the same kid that you just watched for two, three or four years at the local university, it’s going to be fantastic.”   Justin Tuck, an AAF investor, played for Lewis in New York when Lewis was the Giants defensive coordinator. He expects Lewis to run a tight ship. “Coach Lewis is a committed guy,” Tuck said. “A no-nonsense guy; a guy that’s a teacher. Someone who is more than X’s and O’s. Obviously, he knows the game of football […]

Childress ‘Can’t Wait’ to Lead Way in Atlanta

By Dinn Mann Brad Childress is fired up, ready to give Atlanta fans a new, exciting professional football team to cheer beginning in February. “I can’t wait to get started,” Childress, coach of Atlanta’s new team in The Alliance of American Football, said last weekend. “I wish we could start tomorrow.” The Alliance has signed hundreds of players to compete in the eight-team field, and the season starts precisely when football previously has been pulled off the table, after Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta, fittingly). Childress, 62, loves the timing of it all.  “It has a great chance to stem the tide,” Childress said. “All of the sudden, there is football to watch until the first of May.” And make no mistake, the quality of the football in The Alliance will not only feature unprecedented player access technologically, it will be played by regionally popular athletes, household names to fans in their respective areas. Competing in the East with Atlanta are Orlando (coached by Steve Spurrier), Birmingham (coached by Tim Lewis) and Memphis (coached by Mike Singletary). The West features Mike Martz coaching in San Diego, Rick Neuheisel in Phoenix, Dennis Erickson in Salt Lake and Mike Riley in San Antonio. Childress fits right in with that Who’s-Who lineup of head coaches. What he’s even more enthusiastic about are the players. “The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do as a coach is waive people,” Childress said. “When you can help somebody fulfill a dream, it’s a great situation. “The types of guys we’re giving a chance are going to give everything in their power to get a look, to hang on, to get to play in this league. “What I’ve found in coaching over the course of 40 years is if you can give players a tip or a point or get them to understand a coverage or something like that, they’re forever grateful, they’re hungry and they’re going to play hard for you.” Childress’ resume speaks for itself. Having been part of three NFL franchises that made the playoffs (Minnesota, Kansas City, and Philadelphia), Childress has proven schemes and plays that produce a lot of points. Among his pro highlights, Childress was quarterbacks coach of the Eagles under Andy Reid beginning in 1999, then served as offensive coordinator from 2002-2005. During his tenure in Philadelphia, the Eagles posted a 70-42 record (.625), captured four consecutive NFC East Division titles (2001-04) and advanced to the postseason five consecutive seasons (2000-04). Philadelphia also represented the NFC in Super Bowl XXXIX following the 2004 season. Childress led a group that ranked in the top 10 in total offense twice, amassed more than 5,000 yards each season and averaged 333.8 yards per game. In 2006, Childress was hired as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings. He guided them to a 39-35 (.527) regular season record as the team won consecutive NFC North division titles (2008-09) for the first time in 28 years (1977-78). Displaying a powerful running game, the Vikings posted the fourth-most rushing yards in the NFL (136.1 yards per game) and the third-best average per rush attempt […]

Spurrier brings exciting style to Orlando

By Joel Poiley Small wonder Steve Spurrier was named the first coach in the new Alliance of American Football (AAF) in March of 2018. With a championship coaching and playing pedigree that includes seven SEC championships (six at University of Florida and one at South Carolina) a national title at Florida in 1996 and winning the Heisman Trophy as a quarterback at Florida in 1966, “The Head Ball Coach” brings his high octane passing offense to Orlando for its inaugural AAF season. Spurrier, 73, said he was attracted to the AAF for several reasons.   “I really liked the new rules; two-and-a-half hour games, 30 seconds between plays, and I really need a challenge,” Spurrier said. “We are thankful to represent Orlando and surrounding cities with a professional football team. I am thrilled to be a part of a team, to have the opportunity to compete and to strive to bring a championship to Orlando. “Coaching in The Alliance will be extremely fair for all coaches and cities. The structure created by [CEO and Co-Founder] Charlie Ebersol and [Co-Founder] Bill Polian should level the playing field with very talented football players disbursed to each team.” Born in Miami Beach, Spurrier grew up in Tennessee where he was a multi-sport star at Science Hill High School in Johnson City. More success followed at UF, where he started at quarterback for three seasons and was a consensus All-American in 1965 and 1966. Drafted in the first round (third overall) of the 1967 NFL draft, Spurrier played nine years for the San Francisco 49ers as a quarterback and punter. He concluded his 10-year pro career as the first quarterback for the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976. After retiring as a player, Spurrier began developing his passing schemes as an offensive assistant at Florida, quarterbacks’ coach at Georgia Tech, and in 1980 he became offensive coordinator for Duke University. Coaching against the powers of the Atlantic Coast Conference, it was at Duke where Spurrier developed much of his pass-based offense that broke several school and conference records during his three seasons as an assistant. His first position as a head coach came with the Tampa Bay Bandits of the fledgling United States Football league (USFL) in 1983. That made him the youngest head coach in professional football at age 37. Spurrier’s “Bandit Ball” offense (named after minority owner Burt Reynolds’ hit Smokey and the Bandit movies) resonated with fans and produced a 35-19 record before the league folded after the 1985 season.     Spurrier returned to Duke as their head coach in 1987, where his “Fast Break” offense broke many of the records set during his tenure as offensive coordinator. His 1989 team won the program’s first conference championship since 1962 and most recent to date. He returned to coach his alma mater in 1990, and his wide-open offense (re-nicknamed the “Fun ‘n’ Gun”) continued to produce, with his Gator teams setting numerous school and conference records. Spurrier became the first Heisman winner to coach a Heisman Trophy winner when Danny Wuerffel won the coveted award in 1996. Spurrier left Florida after the […]

Singletary set to lead Memphis Pro Football Team

By Jason King The inaugural season of The Alliance of American Football is fast approaching in five months, and the league’s Memphis franchise is already attracting national headlines. This is even before the players who’ll roam the field are in uniform. What’s getting much-deserved attention is a certain figure who’ll stand tall on the sideline. Hall-of-Fame linebacker Mike Singletary—the Chicago Bears legend and one of the top defensive players in NFL history—agreed in May to become the head coach of the Memphis Alliance when AAF games begin in February. The league boasts other big names such as Steve Spurrier (Orlando), Brad Childress (Atlanta) and Dennis Erickson (Salt Lake City). But Memphis’ signing of NFL icon Singletary put his team on the map like an emphatic, successful, high-stakes blitz. Shortly after his hiring in May, Singletary promised Memphis fans that he’d deliver “a brand of football you’re going to enjoy.” “We’re going to play fast,” he said. “And we’re going to play tough.” Singletary exuded both of those qualities during his 11-year career with the Bears, 10 of which ended with Pro Bowl invites. His most notable season came in 1985, when Singletary flourished in Chicago’s “46 Defense,” which allowed him to go unblocked on almost every snap. Singletary recorded 161 total tackles and won NFL Defensive MVP honors as the Bears cruised to a 43-10 victory over New England in the Super Bowl. Singletary’s pregame speeches during the Bears’ playoff run that season became the stuff of legend, as teammates once became so inspired that they picked up tables and chairs and hurled them across the room before storming the field. More than three decades later, AAF officials are hoping Singletary’s motivational skills will have a rousing impact on Memphis and players and fans, too. “It’s going to be a team effort,” Singletary said during a May interview with “The Jason & John Show” on 92.9 FM in Memphis. “It’s about making sure we have an offense that’s moving fast and getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hands. And at the same time, when we’re running the ball, we’ve got to make sure we’re getting the ball down the field and complementing the pass, creating a balance.” Singletary, 59, was just weeks removed from accepting the head coaching position at Trinity Christian Academy—a private high school in the Dallas suburb of Addison—when AAF officials contacted him about the Memphis job in March. He said the involvement of longtime Indianapolis Colts president and general manager Bill Polian immediately caught his attention and made him believe the league will not only succeed, but thrive. Polian is the AAF’s co-founder. “For Bill Polian to be involved … I had to take a step back and listen to what he was saying,” Singletary told the radio station. “He’s been around a while. He’s been a part of great organizations. He knows what’s taking bout about. For him to be involved, I knew there must be something very positive about it.” Singletary is coaching high school ball this fall and will join The Alliance in the spring. He said he especially looks forward to […]


New Professional Football League Names Seven Team Presidents for Atlanta, Birmingham, Orlando, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego and Salt Lake City SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – August 28, 2018 – The Alliance of American Football has named seven team Presidents who will lead all business operations for The Alliance in their respective cities. The Alliance announced that David Livingston (Atlanta), Tom Ward (Birmingham), Mike Waddell (Orlando), Scott Brubaker (Phoenix), Tyler Howell (Salt Lake City), Vic Gregovits (San Antonio) and Jeff Garner (San Diego) are joining Alliance Memphis team president Kosha Irby, who was announced in May, in the new professional football league. “As we began our journey to find the right leader for each organization, we had a specific set of criteria that we felt was uniquely specific to each city,” said Tom Veit, head of business operations, The Alliance. “Ultimately we were able to find an incredible group of team presidents that possess the intellect, leadership, and strategic mindset necessary to build our alliance.” “As we expand our footprint in each of our eight Alliance markets, our team presidents will build thoughtful community partnerships to ensure we are active and engaged members building lasting and meaningful relationships.” Among the additions announced today are respected executives in a variety of sports and entertainment fields which include: ATLANTA: As an experienced marketer with a career forged building brand programs and platforms connected to sports and entertainment, W. David Livingston joins Alliance Atlanta from Comcast Spectacor’s Spectra Venue Management team where he served as director, national corporate partnerships. Livingston also spent time with the Cleveland Cavaliers and 15 years leading sales and business development for IMG Golf in Cleveland. He began his career in brand management at Procter and Gamble. BIRMINGHAM: A well-rounded and results-driven sports executive with 25 years of experience in marketing, sales, partnership, broadcasting, arena/stadium naming rights and business development, Tom Ward joins Alliance Birmingham after serving as the senior vice president, brand, community, partnership development for the Carolina Hurricanes of the National Hockey League. Ward is a veteran award-winning storyteller who has played an integral role in the launching of multiple professional sports franchises and opening arenas and stadiums. ORLANDO: A veteran professional sports and college athletics administrator, Mike Waddell joins Alliance Orlando after spending the previous two years as vice president of Richmond Raceway. In his role with NASCAR, Waddell’s responsibilities included oversight over all marketing, ticketing, strategic communications, creative, digital strategy, eaSports and fan engagement operations for the raceway, which operates as one of the 12 motorsports facilities of International Speedway Corporation. PHOENIX: A well-respected sports sponsorship sales professional with deep Arizona roots, Scott Brubaker joins Alliance Phoenix from Learfield bringing with him more than 30 years of experience. While with Learfield, Brubaker held a variety of senior roles within the company across multiple properties, the last of which was vice president, national sales located in Chicago and Atlanta. SALT LAKE CITY: A veteran sports industry sales professional with over 20 years in leadership experience, Tyler Howell joins Alliance Salt Lake City following an impressive stint with the Portland Trail Blazers. During his time in Portland, Howell had […]


The Alliance Signs 105 Players to Contracts for the 2019 Inaugural Season Beginning February 9, 2019 Latest Signings Bring League Total to 205 Players SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – August 17, 2018 – The Alliance of American Football has signed the following 105 players to contracts for the 2019 inaugural season:


New Professional Football League Begins Player Acquisition Process for 2019 Inaugural Season SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – August 6, 2018 – The Alliance of American Football has signed its first 100 players to compete in the new professional league launching on February 9, 2019. The Alliance recently began the process of offering player contracts to potential prospects following an extensive evaluation process by the personnel staff of The Alliance’s eight teams. “Today marks an exciting step in our journey to providing fans and players with top-flight football in the spring, as we begin to establish a competitive foundation and base of talent that will keep expanding throughout this fall and winter,” explained Bill Polian, co-founder and head of football, The Alliance. “These athletes will now have an opportunity to begin, extend or revitalize their professional football careers and continue playing the game we all love.” He added, “Our personnel staff, general managers and coaches will continue to recruit aggressively in the days and months to come. Team-building is a never ending task and we are excited to attack that challenge and to build on this very positive start.” The standard Alliance player contract offers players a base salary of $250,000 over three years with a comprehensive bonus system which will award financial compensation based on a variety of metrics such as performance, win, and fan engagement. Additionally, players who make final rosters will be offered postsecondary education assistance and health and wellness benefits. Players are allocated to Alliance teams based on where they competed in college. If a player’s college is outside The Alliance footprint, he will be allocated based on his most recent NFL/CFL team. If a player’s college is outside The Alliance allocation footprint AND he did not play in the NFL or CFL, then he is unallocated and available to be tendered a contract by any Alliance team. If a player signs with The Alliance and is then offered a contract to play in the National Football League, the player will be granted permission to pursue that opportunity.

Another new professional football league will start next February, getting a head start on the XFL

Spring football is returning — and sooner than we thought. The Alliance of American Football league was announced Tuesday and will debut on Feb. 9, 2019, a week after Super Bowl LIII and at least a year before the XFL resurfaces sometime in 2020. Charlie Ebersol — whose father, Dick Ebersol, founded the original XFL with WWE's Vince McMahon almost two decades ago — created the new league along with Pro Football Hall of Fame member Bill Polian, formerly NFL general manager and currently an ESPN analyst. {{ vc_btn:title=Learn+More&shape=square& }}

New AAF pro football league, set for 2019 debut, described as ‘complementary’ to NFL

The XFL won’t be the only new professional football league set to launch over the next couple of years.

Troy Polamalu, Hines Ward, More to Oversee Alliance of America Football League

The new Alliance of American Football will include the involvement of former NFL general manager Bill Polian as well as former NFL players Troy Polamalu, Hines Ward and Justin Tuck. {{ vc_btn:title=Learn+More&shape=square& }}

Why A New Football League Thinks It Has What It Takes To Survive

The All American Football League, United Football League, United States Football League, Fall Experimental Football League, Major League Football and North American Football League all have something in common -- {{ vc_btn:title=Learn+More&shape=square& }}

Charlie Ebersol The Latest To Try Hand At Spring Football League

Vince McMahon in January announced plans to launch a new XFL by ‘20. At a media event in N.Y. this morning, Charlie Ebersol announced his plans to launch a competing, single-entity spring football league called the Alliance of American Football in February. Longtime NBC Sports boss Dick Ebersol, Charlie’s father and a driving force behind the original XFL, will be on the AAF's BOD. The AAF carries a roster of high-profile investors including The Chernin Group and Founders Fund, which was an early investor in Facebook, Space-X and Lyft. M Ventures, entrepreneur Keith Rabois and former NFLer Jared Allen also are investing in the league. Charlie Ebersol would not say how much he raised or how much the league needs to succeed. “Getting a lot of money was obviously important, but getting the right money was even more important,” Ebersol said. “All of these previous attempts have been based on the idea of a one- or two-year business model. I went out and said, ‘Look, I need money for seven-to-10 years.’ They were the type of people that jumped on board.” The AAF already has a deal in place with CBS Sports, which has committed to show the league’s first game in primetime on its broadcast network on Feb. 9. That is the week following Super Bowl LII, which will be produced by CBS. The broadcast network also has committed to show the league’s first championship game in primetime the weekend of April 26-28. CBS Sports Network will carry a weekly regular-season game. All games will be live streamed for free via the league’s app, which will allow for an in-game fantasy component. {{ vc_btn:title=Learn+More&shape=square& }}

XFL documentary maker plans new football league

While Vince McMahon promises to bring back a revamped XFL in 2020, a son of McMahon's partner in the original short-lived XFL venture said his football league will come first. And some big NFL names will be involved. Charlie Ebersol, who directed a documentary on the XFL that aired last year as part of ESPN's 30 for 30 series, announced Tuesday that his league, the Alliance of American Football, plans to debut Feb. 9, 2019, the week after Super Bowl LIII. The season will run 10 weeks and will have 50-man teams. {{ vc_btn:title=Learn+More&shape=square& }}

New Pro Football League Sets 2019 Debut With CBS Sports Pact

Charlie Ebersol made a documentary about why the XFL failed. Now he’s set to launch an eight-team pro football league in 2019 with a CBS Sports broadcast deal and a roster of ex-NFL players in executive and advisory roles – a year ahead of WWE chairman Vince McMahon’s planned XFL reboot.