Owl Alumni Taking Advantage of a New Football League

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Written by Jack Byrne

The Alliance of American Football, or AAF, kicked off its inaugural season earlier this month, or should I say, didn’t kick off anything. This brand new, eight team league has a slightly different rule book than the NFL, one of which is that there are no kickoffs; each team instead starts at their own 25-yard line.

The eight teams of “The Alliance” include the Arizona Hotshots, the Atlanta Legends, the Birmingham Iron, the Memphis Express, the Orlando Apollos, the Salt Lake Stallions, the San Antonio Commanders, and the San Diego Fleet.

These teams will be implementing many other different rules which the NFL has yet to adopt, or even remotely consider. Many of the new rules are attempts to make the game quicker, hence why AAF teams will have a 35-second play clock, which is five seconds shorter than the NFL’s. The Alliance will not have extra point attempts after touchdowns, as each team will have to go for a two point conversion instead. Don’t worry unemployed NFL kickers (looking at you, Blair Walsh), there will still be field goals in this new league.

The AAF has stated that it wants to be a “complementary league” to the NFL, by giving players a second chance at professionally partaking in the game they love. AAF Co-founders Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian also proclaim their league to be “Real football for football people, by football people,” per CBS Sports. This is unlike Vince McMahon’s WWE version of football, the XFL, which gave viewers a very acted out and violent version of football similar to wrestling. The AAF will instead give viewers an authentic football experience.

One big complaint I hear from many NFL football fans is that there are too many commercials during a weekly broadcast. Fans of the AAF will not experience that same problem, as there are no TV timeouts in the Alliance, as well as fewer commercials during actual game stoppages. Now that may be a result of the AAF being new and advertisers being skeptical, but it can’t be overlooked that the AAF will seemingly attempt to increase viewership and fix a problem so many fans have with the NFL.

Some recognizable names have already joined the various AAF organizations. Former Eagles wide receiver Josh Huff now plays for the Arizona Hotshots. The Atlanta Legends have a pair of former NFL backup quarterbacks in Aaron Murray and Matt Simms. The Memphis Express also have a pair of formidable college quarterbacks in Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg and LSU’s Zach Mettenberger. Former Alabama running back and Cleveland Browns bust, Trent Richardson, now occupies the Birmingham Iron backfield. Longtime Chargers kicker, Nick Novak, is now a member of the Iron as well. Former Vikings and 49ers running back Matt Asiata now plays for the Salt Lake Stallions.

A pair of Temple Football alums now play for the Stallions as well. Wide receiver Adonis Jennings and offensive tackle Leon Johnson are teammates once again in Salt Lake City. Both 2018 graduates, Jennings and Johnson now have another chance to play the game they love. Jennings finished his Owl career with 13 touchdowns and 1,362 receiving yards placing him 16th all-time in school history. Johnson was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Denver Broncos in 2018, but was released in September. Another former Owl from 2009-11, who now plays for the San Antonio Commanders is tight end Evan Rodriguez. After being drafted in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL draft by the Bears, Rodriguez became a journeyman tight end in the league, playing for four teams over three seasons including the Bears, Dolphins, Bills, and Buccaneers. Rodriguez actually scored a touchdown in the Commanders’ game against the Apollos over the weekend.  

The two biggest names in the AAF are two head coaches. Longtime Florida Gators and South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier now coaches the Apollos, and former Bears linebacker/49ers head coach Mike Singletary coaches the Express.   

In its third weekend of a 12-week schedule, the AAF did not disappoint:

On Saturday, the Orlando Apollos advanced to 3-0, defeating the Memphis Express 21-17, and the Arizona Hotshots fell to the Salt Lake Stallions 23-15. This was the Hotshots first loss of the season, and alternately the Stallions first win of the year.  

On Sunday, the San Diego Fleet got their second win of the season beating the San Antonio Commanders 31-11, and the Birmingham Iron stayed undefeated with a win over the Atlanta Legends 28-12 with the help of Trent Richardson’s impressive 145 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns this season (per CBS Sports).

Eleven weeks remain in the Alliance of American Football’s rookie year, and whether or not this new league expands or even lasts longer than just this season is up to you, the fans. If you already need your fix of pro football just one week after the Super Bowl, or simply want an alternative to the NFL, then I’d prescribe the AAF to cure those ailments. The Alliance’s games air on Saturdays and Sundays broadcasted by CBS Sports, TNT, NFL Network, and on the CBS streaming app.   


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