AAF Team Preview: Birmingham Iron

The interacting of a professional football team within a extremely-passionate college football fan base could ultimately be a huge success for the Iron. The state of Alabama has no professional sport team, and there is no questioning the passion that surrounds the sport of football within the great state of Alabama.

With the Alabama Crimson Tide annually dominating the college landscape, as well as  the Auburn Tigers always right there in the picture; the passionate football fans in Alabama are starving for more football.

The Iron name is a tribute to the city’s iron industry, while the team colors of black, dark grey, and light grey are based on iron ore, coal, and flux, the components used to make steel.

Ironn.jpeg

The Iron will be full of former Alabama and Auburn players searching for redemption such as; former Heisman Trophy winner RB Trent Richardson, CB Chris Davis (who famously returned the “Kick Six” in the Iron-Bowl), and QB Blake Sims.

Stadium:

Legion Field: 71,594 is the home stadium of the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) Blazers football team of the Conference USA.

General Manager:

Joe Pendry: Pendry is a 71-year old former American football coach with 40-years coaching experience from 1971 until 2010. He was an assistant coach or offensive coordinator for multiple teams in both the collegiate and professional ranks. His last stint was for the Alabama Crimson Tide (2007-2010) as their assistant head coach and offensive line coach. He won a BCS National Championship and SEC Championship, and then retired in 2011.

“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. 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,” -Iron GM Joe Pendry on the team’s name reveal. 

Head Coach:

Tim Lewis: Lewis earned his first career position as a head coach after spending 30 years as a defensive assistant and coordinator. Lewis was a former NFL cornerback and was selected in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers, where he played for four years, and finished his playing career there.

“I don’t care if this is his first head coaching job. To me, it was like he was in his 10th year. He does a fantastic job of just getting us together as a group. He’s very demanding in what we do, and I think that’s helped us out a lot throughout (training) camp.” -Iron QB Luis Perez on Coach Lewis’s first-year as a Head Coach.

Offense:

Quarterbacks:

Luis Perez: Luis Perez story is the epitome of what this league should be about, but his story is one of the craziest underdog stories of all time. Perez has played with a chip on my shoulder his entire college football career, and the main reason for that is he never played varsity high school football. He began playing in junior college at Southwestern College, where he began as the ninth of nine quarterbacks on the depth chart. He eventually became the starter due to injuries or others leaving, but it did not earn him any Division I scholarship offers.

Perez then transferred to the Division II Texas A&M-Commerce, where he earned the Harlon Hill Trophy as the best football player in D-II in 2017, and won a D-II National Championship. Despite shattering records and winning a title at the D-II level it stil wasn’t enough to get him selected in the 2018 NFL Draft. He spent this season in the Sean McVay system, searching for reps in training camp with the Los Angeles Rams. Perez has all the potential to be a star for the Iron, and easily could impress a few NFL team to sign him immediately after the season with a strong performance.

Blake Sims: Sims, the former 6-foot University of Alabama starting quarterback went undrafted in 2015. He ran a 4.57 40-yard dash at his his pro day and was viewed by scouts as a running back. In 14 starts at Alabama he passed for 3,487 yards, 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He lost in the semifinals to Ohio State, which later won the championship.

After bouncing around in the CFL and spending time on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice squad, this opportunity seems to be perfect for Sims. There is no better place for Sims to have his opportunity like right in the heart of Alabama where he starred under the big lights with fellow Crimson Tide fan cheering him on. Sims should be a fan-favorite even not as the starter, and it is cool to see a former college star play in front of his fans.

Keith Price: Price finished his career at the University of Washington with 8,921 passing yards and 75 touchdowns. Following the 2014 NFL Draft, Price signed as an undrafted free agent with the Seattle Seahawks where he was released a month later. Price then was signed by the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League, and has not had an NFL opportunity since.

Running Backs:

Trent Richardson: Richardson is 100% the most notable player and most anticipated player to watch in the entire league. Richardson was starred for the Alabama Crimson Tide where he was a Unanimous All-American in 2011, won two National Championships, and a 2x first-team All-SEC. Richardson was the 3rd overall pick in the 2012 Draft.

Richardson was a major disappointment (to say the least) in the NFL. He averaged for 3.3 yards per carry in four seasons with the Browns and Indianapolis Colts. Richardson most recently spent time in the CFL, and is looking to prove to America and the state where just a few years ago he was a superstar; at 27-years-old he still has something left in the tank.

Ty Isaac: Was a star recruit in High School playing in the Under Armor All-American Game in 2011.. Issac enrolled at USC and decided to transfer to Michigan following his freshman season, because of geographic distance from his ailing mother making him want to return to the midwest. Issac went undrafted last draft, but the 6’3″ 230 lbs. back has great size…

Ladarius Perkins: Perkins went undrafted in 2014 out of Mississippi State, and got picked up after by the Green Bay Packers. Perkins is a 5 foot 8 quicker back that had a lot of success alongside Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott in college, and was awarded 2nd Team All-Sec in 2012.

Brandon Ross: Ross was formerly was a serviceable running back for the University of Maryland during its dreadful 3-9 season that included the firing of Randy Edsall. He ran for over 100 yards four times, and is looking for his first opportunity to see playing time in a professional league.

Wide Receivers:

Amba Etta-Tawo: Played collegiate football at the University of Maryland, then finishing his career at Syracuse as a graduate transfer.  His 1,482 receiving yards ranked eighth in the FBS and second in any power five conference behind only Oklahoma’s Dede Westbrook (1,524). He was voted team captain at the end of the season and finished being ranked as the 15th best college player and second best wide receiver in the nation by ESPN.

He ran a 4.49 at the NFL Combine, was picked up undrafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He played for the New York Giants in this past preseason, and most recently was signed to the Houston Texans practice squad in December. Etta-Tawo definitely has what it takes to play in the league, but we will see if he can perform enough to land a multi-year contract with an NFL team.

L’Damian Washington: Washington is a perfect example of a type of player that can extremely benefit from this league. The former University of Missouri 6’4″ receiver Washington finished his senior season with 59 receptions for 692 yards for 10 touchdowns. Since then he went undrafted in 2014, and has been on seven NFL team practice squads, and two CFL teams since. Hopefully Washington can utilize his size and have a productive season to prove he can get a chance in the NFL.

Quan Bray: Quan Bray was a highly touted HS recruit, he was ranked the nation’s number 5 athlete by ESPN and the 40th overall recruit. The 5’10” athlete went to Auburn striving as a return specialist. His senior year he was a 2nd team All-SEC return specialist and was the first player in Auburn history to score a rushing, receiving, and punt return touchdown in the same season.

In 2015, Bray did not receive an invite to the NFL Combine, ran a 4.5 40-time at his Pro-Day and went undrafted. He signed with the Indianapolis Colts, and ended up impressing their staff earning him the return specialist role for three seasons. Bray spent time on the Houston Texans this offseason and was cut for the season, but at 25 years-old he will be ready to show off his athletic ability in-front of his former Auburn fans.

Devozea Felton: At 5-foot-7, 160 pounds, Felton isn’t the biggest player, but that doesn’t matter if defenders can’t get a hand on him.

Felton, who starred at Tuskegee (Ala.) University, has lined up at slot receiver, and works as the punt returner during practice. He’s turned heads with his long speed, but his hands have also been impressive, including with a one-handed catch during practice on Friday.

“He flies, In a blink of an eye, he’s gone,” -Iron quarterback Blake Sims said of Felton.

Quinton Patton: Patton at 28 years-old is a former San Francisco 49ers’ 2013 fourth round draft pick. He went to Louisiana Tech University after transferring from Coffeyville Community College. He finished first-team All-WAC his two seasons at Lousiana Tech, finishing with incredible numbers in his two seasons; 79 receptions, 1,202 yards and 11 touchdown in 2011, following that up with 104 receptions for 1,392 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Patton did not play much in San Francisco but then started all 14 games in 2016 where he had 37 catches for 408 yards. His last NFL appearance was when he was cut by the New York Jets in 2017 due to a foot injury.

Tobais Palmer: Palmer was on six NFL teams practice squads since he was undrafted in 2013 before transitioning into the CFL. The former NC State receiver spent this past season with the Toronto Argonauts 28 years-old looking for his next opportunity.

Tight Ends:

Braedon Bowman: Bowman is an intriguing prospect that could truly benefit from a strong season with the Iron. Bowman is a 6’4″ 245 lbs. tight end that has been on four different NFL practice squads. At just 25 years-old he could be a nice addition for an NFL team looking for a young tight end with experience under his belt.

Rory “Busta” Anderson: Another big 6 foot 5, 245 lb. tight end was a former 7th round pick in 2015 selected by the San Francisco 49ers. Anderson was last apart of the Bills practice squad in 2017. Anderson played collegiate ball at the University of South Carolina.

Connor Davis: Davis is a 6’8″ 260 lb. undrafted rookie out of Stony Brook. Davis has a massive 81″ wingspan, and ran a 4.81 40-time at his pro day.

Offensive Line:

Tackles:

Michael Dunn: Dunn was a former four-year starter at Maryland University playing 48 games. He spent time this past offseason with the Los Angeles Rams.

Korren Kirven: Kirven played two seasons at Alabama as a defensive lineman before switching to the offensive line. He played right guard for the Crimson Tide in his final season, he entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2017, and last was cut by the Dallas Cowboys this past August.

Larson Graham: Graham entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent after the 2017 NFL Draft from Duquesne. He originally entered the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons, and was cut this past offseason by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Brandon Greene: Greene is a 6 foot 5 former member of the Alabama Crimson Tide, split time between tight end and offensive line while also seeing time at defensive end throughout his college career. He went undrafted in 2017, and spent time with the Chicago Bears before being cut prior to this past regular season.

Dominick Jackson: Jackson has massive length at 6 foot 7, and is another former member of the Alabama Crimson Tide after going undrafted in 2016.

Guards:

Avery Young: The massive 6 foot 6 guard played collegiately at Auburn University, where he was a three-year starter at both tackle and guard. Young went undrafted in 2016, and at 26-years-old he’s been apart of three NFL practice squads, so he should definitely be looking to contribute on the field right.

Kitt O’Brien: O’Brien last appearance in the NFL was in 2017 when he was cut by the Cleveland Browns in 2017. O’Brien started went undrafted in 2013 after starting 36 games in college at Ball State. He started his post-collegiate career playing three season for the Cleveland Gladiators in the Arena Football League.

Center:

J.C. Hassenauer: Hassenauer is a 6 foot 2, 205 lb. former University of Alabama’s top reserve, stepping in at center or guard whenever necessary. During his senior season, Hassenauer played in eight games and started the final three games of his career, including Alabama’s thrilling national championship game victory over Georgia in 2017. Hassenauer spent time this past offseason with the Atlanta Falcons, signing as an undrafted rookie free agent.

Defense:

Defensive Line:

Defensive Ends:

Casey Sayles: Sayles played collegiately at the University of Ohio, and registered 110 total tackles, 19.5 for losses with 11.5 sacks. Sayles went undrafted in 2017, and after spending time with the Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers, he’s looking to develop with the Iron.

Devin Taylor: Taylor is a massive 6 foot 7 defensive end, and was a former 4th round pick in 2013 selected by the Detroit Lions. Taylor had a solid four seasons with Detriot (2013-2016) recording 15 sacks, for 92 tackles.

Johnny Maxey: Maxey spent training camp with the Memphis Express but did not make their final roster. Maxey went undrafted out of Mars Hills, but ended up signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers, as well as spending time the past two seasons with the Tennessee Titans. Maxey is a 6 foot 5, 285 lb. defensive end that could disrupt a lot passing offenses this season for the Iron.

Defensive Tackles:

Ricky Hatley: As a senior at Missouri in 2016, Hatley started all 12 games, recording 28 tackles (18 solo) with a sack and two quarterback hurries. He earned the team’s J. Ed “Brick” Travis Interior Lineman of the Year Award that season. Hatley spent time in the NFL with the Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills.

Jeremy Faulk: Faulk is a 6 foot 2, 305 lb. undrafted defensive tackle who played collegiately at Garden City Community College. Faulk originally played for the University of Baylor, and after just spending time with the Cleveland Browns this past regular season, the 25-year old will look to contribute for the Iron.

Josh Frazier: Frazier is a rookie 7th round draft pick from the University of Alabama. Frazier 6’3″ 310. 7th round pick. 34 1/4 arms. 11 games, 15 tackles, 2.5 sacks in 17′

Nick James: The former Mississippi State defensive tackle started 15 games over his final two seasons in 2015 and 2016. James was not drafted in the 2017 NFL Draft, and briefly signed with the Detroit Lions until he was cut. He later signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, and now will look for his shot in Birmingham.

Lawrence Okoye: Okoye is a 6 foot 6 defensive tackle that was ready to make the most of his opportunity with the Iron, but I’m not too sure if he will get a shot now.

As I was doing research on him I just discovered he was just arrested four days ago on prostitution solicitation charges. Not sure if Okoye will still play this season, but we can confirm it will go down as the first arrest in the Alliance history…

Linebackers:

Outside Linebackers:

Xzavier Dickson: Dickson is a former member of the Alabama Crimson Tide and was drafted in the 7th round of 2015 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. Dickson was a highly impactful contributor for two National Championships with the Crimson Tide, but has never been able to make it in the NFL.

Jonathan Massaquoi: Massaquoi was selected in the 5th round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons, and last a member of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2016.

Shaheed Salmon: Salmon is an undrafted rookie out of Sanford. Salmon is a 6 foot 2, 230 lb. pass rusher with very long arms, 81″ wingspan, produced 11.5 sacks the last two seasons.in college.

Matthew Wells: Wells is a former 6th round pick of the 2015 NFL Draft selected by the New England Patriots. The 6 foot 2 Wells played collegiate at Mississippi State, where he started 33 games. He last played in the CFL in 2016.

Aaron Adeoye: Went undrafted after playing collegiately at the FCS-level for Southeastern Missouri State.

Inside Linebackers:

Beniquez Brown: Brown was the former three-year starting inside linebacker for the Mississippi State Bulldogs, but went undrafted in 2016. The 25-year-old only signed with the Green Bay Packers, and later was cut in 2016, and has not played on an NFL or any team since.

Ike Spearman: Spearman is an undrafted rookie out of Eastern Michigan. He ran a very impressive 4.68 40-time, and a 36.5″ vertical jump at his pro day.

Defensive Backs:

Cornerbacks:

Trovon Reed: Since going undrafted from Auburn in 2015, the 28-year-old has spent time in eight different NFL organizations, mainly just on practice squad. He played five seasons at Auburn, spending the first four years at WR, then switching to CB his senior year.

Chris Davis: No matter which side of the “Iron Bowl” you are on, Davis is already considered a legend in the state of Alabama whether you like it or not. Chris Davis was the Auburn University player in 2013 who iconically returned the iconically “Kick Six”. Davis memorably returned Alabama’s game expiring missed field goal attempt 109-yards to stun the Crimson Tide. Davis never made an NFL career out of it, but he’s ready to come back home, and it will be for sure a very interesting dynamic shape out for the Iron fans having to choose to root for him depending on your college.

Ryan White: White played in the 2010 and 2013 BCS national-championship games during his time at Auburn. White went to training camp with the Green Bay Packers in 2014 and the Atlanta Falcons in 2015, and he spent time on the Falcons’ practice squad during the 2016 NFL season.

Bradley Sylve: Sylve played at Alabama from 2012 through 2015 and was a member of two BCS national-championship teams. He suffered a torn left Achilles tendon on March 7, 2016 — one day before he was to participate in Alabama’s annual Pro Day. After he spent a year of rehab and recovery, Sylve signed with the Buffalo Bills, but has never been able to stick on an NFL roster.

Jamar Summers: Summers is a 6 foot, 190 lb. undrafted rookie who played collegiately at the University of Connecticut. Summers had an extremely productive four-year career playing in 45 games, totaling 433 tackles. He is also a very nice athlete jumping a 37.5″ vertical jump, 10’5″ broad jumo, 4.55 40-time, and 6.85 3-cone drill.

Safeties:

Jack Tocho: Tocho was a former 7th round pick selection in 2017 by the Minnesota Vikings. He played collegiately at NC State, and ran a 4.54 at the NFL Combine in 2017. Tocho most recently was signed on the Washington Redskins practice squad in December of 2018, and definitely is looking to enhance this shot into his next NFL opportunity.

Elijah Campbell: Campbell is a 6 foot, 195 lb. undrafted rookie from Northern Iowa. 6′ 195. Campbell is a gifted-athlete, posting a 4.4 40-time, 39″ vertical, 10’5″ broad jump, and a 4.06. Northern Illinois RS-Junior.

Max Redfield: Redfield is a 6 foot 1, 205 lb. safety. He was a four-year starter at two different schools in college, the first 1st three seasons at Notre Dame, before transferring to Miami Ohio. Redfield had a combined 21 tackles throughout his 49 game college career, and ran a 4.68 40-time.

Jaleel Wadood: Wadood is 5 foot 9, 190 lb. four-year starter from UCLA, who appeared in 46 games with a combined 287 tackles.

Jacob Hagen: Hagen is a 26-year-old defensive back who has been a part of a few NFL organizations. The 6 foot 3 safety went undrafted in 2015 out of Liberty, where he signed with the Rams as a free agent.

Special Teams:

Kicker:

Nick Novak: Novak is a 37-year old kicker that has played on 10 different NFL teams throughout his career. After going undrafted from the University of Maryland in 2015, he has made 182 of 222 (82%) field goal attempt in his career.

Punter:

Colton Schmidt: Schmidt was a former Buffalo Bills punter, averaging 44 yards per punt, and his longest punt was 67 yards.

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