The National Football League is approaching its’ climax, as the 2018 season is all 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 this competition won’t match the level of the NFL, quite a few familiar faces found their way into the league. This is certainly the case for the Birmingham Irons, who possess more than their fair share of intriguing players.
The Birmingham Irons: Alliance of American Football Teams
The Birmingham Irons have something of a quarterback controversy brewing between Scott Tolzien and Blake Sims. Tolzien is the more traditional pocket passer and actually has starting experience in the National Football League. However, Tolzien has struggled on the NFL stage. The 31-year old quarterback played in 10 professional games, starting four. In those appearances, Tolzien has completed 60.3% of his passes for 1,065 yards, two touchdowns, and nine interceptions. Tolzien’s last NFL appearance came in the 2017 season opener for the Indianapolis Colts. Earning the start, Tolzien completed just nine of 18 passes with two interceptions before getting benched for Jacoby Brissett.
Sims has never been on an active NFL roster, but there’s no denying his otherworldly athletic ability. Sims spent the majority of his collegiate career as a running back with the Alabama Crimson Tide. However, Sims finally earned a chance to start in 2014 and was one of the most exciting players in college football. During his final year of collegiate ball, Sims completed 64.4% of his passes for 3,487 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. Additionally, Sims added another 350 yard and seven touchdowns on the ground. The first-year starter earned Second-Team All-SEC honors and capped his season by winning the SEC Championship Game MVP honors.
Sims spent two seasons with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League and the Wollongong Devils of the National Gridiron League. Sims eventually found his way into the NFL as a member of the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice squad.
Head coach Tim Lewis will have a chance to see if he can translate his great on-field play into equally great coaching. Lewis, the 11th overall pick in the 1984 NFL Draft, spent four seasons as a cornerback with the Green Bay Packers. Lewis recorded 16 interceptions over that timeframe, finishing with the team lead in interceptions on two separate occasions.
Lewis immediately went into coaching after his playing days ended. Lewis has served as a defensive coordinator, secondary coach, and defensive backs coach from 1987 to 2018. While he has decades of experience, Lewis never had a chance to lead a team before. It’s one thing to know the X’s and O’s, it’s a whole other thing to coach and manage an entire locker room. Still, his knowledge of secondary play is unmatched in the AAF and Birmingham should have one of the better secondaries in the league.
Other Notable Players
The biggest name on the Birmingham Irons belongs for former third-overall pick Trent Richardson. Once seen as the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson, life in the National Football League didn’t go so well for Richardson. Richardson spent just three years in the NFL, recording 2,032 yards and 17 touchdowns while gaining just 3.3 yards-per-carry. Richardson made off-season cameos with the Baltimore Ravens and Oakland Raiders but didn’t make either active roster.
However, there’s no denying how good Trent Richardson was in college. Richardson spent three seasons with the Alabama Crimson Tide, but only started during 2011. Working as the bell-cow back, Richardson recorded 1,679 yards and 21 touchdowns on 283 rushing attempts, good for 5.9 yards-per-carry. He added three receiving touchdowns, which gave him a record-tying 24 combined touchdowns. That version of Trent Richardson is likely gone, but one can hope that he shows something special in the AAF.
Another familiar face is kicker Nick Novak. Novak has plenty of professional experience, initially arriving in the NFL back in 2005. While he’s not the best kicker to ever grace the earth, his longevity in the league shows the promise of a fairly reliable leg. With kickers seemingly becoming less and less reliable by the season, Novak has a lot to gain in the AAF. If Novak can put together a solid season, he could find himself back in the NFL for the 2019 season.
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