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 the competition won’t match that of the NFL, quite a few NFL veterans found their way into the league. The Memphis Express is no exception, as they have several familiar faces scattered across their roster.
Alliance of American Football Teams: The Memphis Express
Currently, quarterbacks Zach Mettenberger and Christian Hackenberg are battling for the starting job. Both players spent multiple years in the National Football League, with Mettenberger having slightly more success. Originally selected as a sixth-round pick, Mettenberger spent two seasons with the Tennessee Titans. During that time, Mettenberger completed 60.3% of his passes for 2,347 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. He never won any of his 10 starts and finished his career with a 75.4 passer rating.
Christian Hackenberg might be the most famous quarterback to never play a game. After an impressive career at Penn State, the New York Jets took Hackenberg in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, hoping to make him the quarterback of the future. That plan backfired, as Hackenberg never even played a snap in his professional career. It’s not like there was a great bunch of quarterbacks in front of him, as the Jets started players like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith, and Bryce Petty over the second-round pick.
While both players struggled in the NFL, each had strong collegiate tenures. Mettenberger played three years with LSU, completing 61.8% of his passes for 5,783 yards, 35 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. While he only attempted 11 passes as a sophomore, Mettenberger was the primary starter during his final two years in college.
Hackenberg spent three seasons as Penn State’s starter and declared for the NFL Draft following his Junior season. Hackenberg completed 56.1% of his passes in college for 8.457 yards, 48 touchdowns, and 31 interceptions. It’s worth noting that he had a worse supporting cast than Mettenberger, which could partially explain the difference in statistics. It looks as though Mettenberger has the best odds of starting, but Hackenberg could still take the job before Week One.
The Head Coach
The Memphis Express has one of the more well-known head coaches in Mike Singletary. Singletary spent 12 years as a linebacker with the Chicago Bears before joining the coaching world in 2003. Fittingly, Singletary started off as a linebackers coach with the Baltimore Ravens. Shortly thereafter, Singletary joined the San Francisco 49ers coaching staff in 2005. Singletary became the 49ers interim head coach midway through the 2008 season. He parlayed this opportunity into a full-time head coaching position from 2009 to 2010. Overall, Singletary went 18-22 as head coach of the 49ers the team and the coach parted ways.
Singletary spent time with the Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams but has been out of coaching since the conclusion of the 2016 season. However, his former head coaching experience should come in serious use in the AAF.
Of course, you can’t mention Singletary without discussing his playing career. A lifelong member of the Chicago Bears, Singletary was one of the most ferocious members of the famous 1985 Bears defense. Singletary finished his 12-year career as a 10-time Pro Bowler, an eight-time First-Team All-Pro, and the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Singletary is credited with 1,488 tackles, 19 tackles, and seven interceptions in his storied career.
Other Notable Players
The Memphis Hurricanes are partying like it’s 2013 in St. Louis by bringing in running back Zac Stacy and wide receiver Chris Givens. Both players were once NFL teammates, and both players actually had a decent amount of success in the NFL, at least relative to the average player in the AAF.
Stacy initially entered the NFL as a fifth-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Despite his late-round draft status, the rookie actually had a strong season in 2013. Playing in 14 games while starting 12, Stacy recorded 973 yards and seven touchdowns on 250 rushing attempts. While his 3.9 yards-per-attempt wasn’t that impressive, the fact he came just short of being a 1,000-yard rusher seemed to imply that he had a bright future. However, Stacy took a backseat to Tre Mason in 2014, recording just 293 yards and a touchdown on the year. Stacy spent one last year with the New York Jets but hasn’t taken a professional snap since 2015.
Just like Stacy, Chris Givens saw his career get off to a relatively hot start before cooling off significantly. Selected in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Givens finished his rookie season with 698 yards and three touchdowns on 42 receptions. Givens build on this solid campaign by posting a 34-catch, 569-yard season in 2013. Givens showed the ability to get open deep, as evidenced by his 16.7 yards-per-reception.
However, just like Stacy, Givens’ career took a nosedive starting in 2014. Over the next two seasons, Givens recorded just 31 receptions for 512 yards and two touchdowns. While his yards-per-reception stayed high, he only hauled in 31 of his 74 targets. Givens earned a chance to fight for a roster spot with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2016, but he couldn’t make it out of training camp.
While it’s been a long time since either player has been productive, both have shown the athletic prowess to be successful in the National Football League. These skills should transfer well to the AAF, and Stacy and Givens have a good chance to do what they almost did in St. Louis all those years ago.
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