By Dinn Mann (Photo: Benjamin Brinker)
The Alliance of American Football’s inaugural Quarterback Draft aired on CBS Sports Network on Tuesday night, showcasing some of the faces hoping to lead the league’s eight teams when the historic first season begins in February. Coaches, GMs, media, fans, friends and family gathered at the HypeX eSports Arena in Las Vegas, and the Alliance’s unique “Protect or Pick” event was part of a breakthrough day of festivities from coast to coast.
Riding the wave of uniform and helmet unveilings earlier in the day, the first-of-its-kind draft format had an intriguing twist in the first round. It called for teams to “protect” one of the players allocated to them in advance (based on regional ties) or “pick” a player from another territory.
The San Diego Fleet had first dibs, with GM Dave Boller and coach Mike Martz calling the shots. They chose to protect a quarterback with ties to the region, the University of San Diego’s Josh Johnson, as their number one selection. On hand for the historic occasion was Johnson’s cousin, Super Bowl-winning running back Marshawn Lynch.
It was a magical moment, Johnson said, to be introduced on live TV by Hall of Famer Kurt Warner as the Alliance’s number one quarterback pick, and then be greeted on stage by Super Bowl hero Hines Ward, as well as Martz, a Vince Lombardi Trophy winner himself. Doesn’t get much better than that!
We’ll let Johnson’s tweet speak for itself:
SD I’m back!!!!!!! Juiced to go #1 to the @AAFFleet return to familiar stopping grounds and start building to win ASAP. Thanks @TheAAF @DaveB_AAF for letting be apart of this history #SDFleet #protectorpick pic.twitter.com/huTKWDzyhR
— Head8cke (@Fam1stFamilyQB) November 28, 2018
Drafted by the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fifth round in 2008, Johnson spent time playing for the Jets, Browns, 49ers, Raiders, and Giants. But now, he’s back in San Diego and eager to get reps on an exciting spring stage.
The Alliance begins its inaugural season the weekend after the upcoming Super Bowl. Here’s how the rest of the draft played out:
- San Diego Fleet (Protect): Josh Johnson, San Diego
- Atlanta Legends (Protect): Aaron Murray, Georgia
- Memphis Express (Protect): Troy Cook, University Tennessee at Martin
- San Antonio Commanders (Protect): Dustin Vaughan, West Texas A&M
- Birmingham Iron (Pick): Luis Perez, Texas A&M-Commerce
- Arizona Hotshots (Pick): Trevor Knight, Texas A&M
- Orlando Apollos (Pick): Garrett Gilbert, Southern Methodist
- Salt Lake Stallions (Pick): Josh Woodrum, Liberty
- San Diego Fleet: Mike Bercovici, Arizona State
- Birmingham Iron: Blake Sims, Alabama
- Arizona Hotshots: John Wolford, Wake Forest
- Orlando Apollos: Stephen Morris, Miami
- Atlanta Legends: Matt Simms, Tennessee
- Salt Lake Stallions: B.J. Daniels, South Florida
- Memphis Express: Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
- San Antonio Commanders: Marquise Williams, North Carolina
- San Antonio Commanders: Logan Woodside, Toledo
- Memphis Express: Brandon Silvers, Troy
- Salt Lake Stallions: Austin Allen, Arkansas
- Atlanta Legends: Peter Pujals, Holy Cross
- Orlando Apollos: Austin Appleby, Purdue
- Arizona Hotshots: Quinn McQueary, Montana Tech
- Birmingham Iron: Scott Tolzien, Wisconsin
- San Diego Fleet: Philip Nelson, East Carolina
- San Antonio Commanders: Dalton Sturm, Texas-San Antonio
- Memphis Express: Zach Mettenberger, LSU
- Salt Lake Stallions: Matt Linehan, Idaho
- Atlanta Legends: Justin Holman, Central Florida
- Orlando Apollos: Kevin Anderson, Fordham
- Arizona Hotshots: Jack Heneghan, Dartmouth
- Birmingham Iron: Aleksander (“Alek”) Torgersen, Penn
- San Diego Fleet: Alex Ross, Coastal Carolina
The Alliance of American Football kicks of on February 9, 2019, one weekend after the Super Bowl, on CBS!