The National Football League is approaching its’ climax, as the 2018 season is but over. However, there will still be football to watch after the Super Bowl. For those who need a year-round football fix, the Alliance of American Football will kick off its’ inaugural season on Saturday, February 9th. While the competition won’t match the level of the NFL, quite a few NFL veterans found their way into the league. This is certainly the case for the Orlando Apollos, who possess more than their fair share of intriguing players.
Alliance of American Football: Getting to Know The Orlando Apollos
The Orlando Apollos will take the field with former NFL quarterback Garrett Gilbert under center. Gilbert, now age 27, initially entered the National Football League as the St. Louis Rams sixth-round pick back in 2014. Gilbert spent time with the New England Patriots, Detroit Lions, and Oakland Raiders before finally earning his first game action with the Carolina Panthers in 2018. Taking over for an injured Kyle Allen, Gilbert completed two of his three pass attempts for 31 yards. Despite signing with the Panthers after reaching an agreement with the Apollos, Gilbert will be Orlando’s quarterback moving forward.
Gilbert spent five years in the college ranks with the Texans Longhorns and the SMU Mustangs. During his collegiate tenure, Gilbert completed 58.7% of his passes for 9,761 yards, 49 touchdowns, and 45 interceptions. Gilbert spent his first three collegiate seasons with the Longhorns but was only the primary starter during the 2010 season. After 2011, Gilbert transferred to SMU for his final two years and played some of his best football. Gilbert started both seasons with the Mustangs, throwing for 6,360 yards, 36 touchdowns, and 22 interceptions.
The Orlando Apollos have perhaps the most high-profile head coach in the league in Steve Spurrier. Spurrier is best known for his 11-year run as head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks, but the 73-year old has also served as head coach for Duke, Florida, and the Washington Redskins.
There’s no denying that Spurrier was one of the best coaches of his time, at least in the collegiate ranks. During his time in the college ranks, Spurrier compiled a 228-89-2 record while going 11-10 in Bowl Games. As far as individual accolades go, Spurrier has seven SEC Coach of the Year Awards and two ACC Coach of the Year Awards to his name.
Despite not coaching since 2015, nobody should question Spurrier’s desire to get back in the game. The longtime coach was actually the first person – player or coach – to sign with the Alliance of American Football. Only time will tell if he still possesses his old coaching ability, but football fans everywhere should be happy to see Spurrier on the sidelines once again.
Other Notable Players
Garrett Gilbert is the unquestioned starter, but backup quarterback Stephen Morris is a pretty interesting player in his own right. Like Gilbert, Morris initially entered the NFL back in 2014. Morris bounced around the league but could never stick with any one team. That said, he put up some impressive numbers with the Miami Hurricanes which could translate to the AAF.
Starting for the final two seasons of his collegiate career, Morris recorded a combined 6,373 yards and 42 touchdowns as a starter. This includes a 2012 matchup against North Carolina State where he threw for a then-ACC record 566 passing yards. Gilbert will definitely enter the season as the starter, but Morris could push him in Gilbert struggles.
The Apollo’s top receiver appears to be wide receiver Frankie Hammond. Like the others on this list, Hammond has experience as a fringe NFL player. Hammond initially entered the National Football League as an undrafted free agent with the Kansas City Chiefs. After spending 2013 on the practice squad, Hammond earned a spot on the active roster in 2014, finishing the season with four receptions for 45 yards. As a four-year collegiate athlete with the Florida Gators, Hammond recorded 63 receptions for 809 yards and six touchdowns. What makes Hammond interesting is his athleticism, as the wide receiver also worked as a high jumper on Florida’s track and field team.
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