Friday, June 28, 2013

Michigan A11FL franchise has title history to follow

The A11 Football League team to play in Michigan starting in the spring of 2015 is going to have a tough outdoor alternative professional football act to follow.

Thirty years ago, another such team, the United States Football League’s Michigan Panthers, came on to the scene and not only was successful right away, but won the USFL’s first championship.

In 1983, the Panthers, based in Detroit and playing home games in the Silverdome in nearby Pontiac, were one of the USFL’s 12 charter franchises. Michigan, despite winning its first game 9-7 at Birmingham, struggled at the outset of the spring season, going 1-4 in its first five games. It was then, however, that the Panthers went on a roll, winning six games in a row and finishing their initial regular season at 12-6 and as co-Central Division champs.

Michigan won its first playoff game at home against Oakland, 37-21. They then defeated the Philadelphia Stars, 24-22, in the first USFL Championship Game, thanks in large part to rookie quarterback Bobby Hebert’s three touchdown passes.

In 1984, the Panthers fought through key injuries to finish the regular season at 10-8, and fought their way back in the postseason. But it was in their first postseason game, on June 30, that they lost, 27-21, in the longest game in professional football history – a three-overtime affair in Los Angeles against the Express.

As it turned out, that would be the Panthers’ final game in Michigan. Due to the ill-fated decision by the USFL to move to the fall beginning in 1986, the Panthers merged with the Oakland Invaders for the 1985 spring season, not to be seen again after back-to-back successful seasons on the field.

Michigan does have one other outdoor alternative pro football experience over the last 40 years, and it wasn’t a good one. The Detroit Wheels played in the first season of the World Football League in 1974, but they didn’t finish the season. Instead of playing in Detroit, the Wheels’ home games were at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti. And after going 1-13 in 14 games, the cash-strapped Wheels were removed from the league.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Illinois A11FL team joins state’s deep outdoor alternative pro football tradition

The A11FL franchise based in Illinois come the spring of 2015 will follow in a long outdoor alternative professional football tradition spanning four decades.

The Illinois-based outdoor alternative pro football team that made the most noise was the United States Football League’s Chicago Blitz (1983-84). The Blitz was expected to be the best team in the USFL’s first season, thanks in large part to the coaching comeback of Head Coach George Allen, and the acquisition of rookies like running back Tim Spencer and wide receiver Trumaine Johnson, and National Football League veterans like quarterback Greg Landry and linebacker Stan White.

While fears of the Blitz blowing away the rest of the USFL in 1983 were unfounded, Chicago did tie the Michigan Panthers for the Central Division title, and made the playoffs. The Blitz, however, lost in overtime in the USFL semifinals to the Philadelphia Stars. And they didn’t just lose – they lost 44-38 in OT after leading 38-17 in the fourth quarter.

The Blitz then made news in the offseason by basically trading franchises with the Arizona Wranglers, leaving one of the league’s top media markets with one of its worst teams from the year before. The 1984 version of the Blitz, therefore, went 5-13 under Head Coach Marv Levy – and then went under.

-       Illinois’ last outdoor alternative pro football team was the XFL’s Chicago Enforcers in 2001. The Enforcers finished at 5-5 and qualified for a playoff spot under well-traveled Head Coach Ron Meyer after starting the season 0-4. Chicago, however, succumbed to eventual XFL champion Los Angeles in the playoffs, 33-16.

-       In 1974, the Chicago Fire participated in the World Football League’s first season – but not all of it. The Fire was 7-13 that year, but they didn’t play all 20 games. After starting the season 4-0, and then 7-2, Chicago lost the final 10 games it played, then forfeited its final game at Philadelphia after team owner Tom Origer called it “meaningless.” A second WFL Chicago team, the Winds, played five games in 1975, going 1-4 before it got kicked out of the league – less than two months before the league itself folded.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

California A11FL team will look for its Steve Young in 2015

By Dusty Sloan

The California A11FL team is going to begin play in the spring of 2015 – which gives it plenty of time to find its version of Steve Young.

Young, the Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback, began his professional football playing career in the United States Football League with the Los Angeles Express. The dual passing-running threat played two seasons for the Express before moving on to the National Football League, and was the starting quarterback in Los Angeles’ victory in the longest game in professional football history, a 27-21 win at the Coliseum against the Michigan Panthers in three overtimes.

Here are some of the other top moments in California outdoor alternative professional football history over the last 40 years:

-       The Sacramento Surge of the World League of American Football won the league’s second title in 1992, beating the Orlando Thunder, 21-17, after going 8-2 in the regular season and winning the league’s North American West Division title. The Surge rode the arm of veteran National Football League quarterback David Archer, who was the World Bowl’s Most Valuable Player.

-       The XFL’s Los Angeles Xtreme finished the 2001 regular season at 7-3 and gained a Western Division championship. It won the league’s lone championship game, “The Million Dollar Game,” by a 38-6 count over the San Francisco Demons, behind the quarterbacking of league Player of the Year Tommy Maddox.

-       The USFL’s Oakland Invaders, filling a void left when the NFL’s Raiders moved to L.A., went 13-4-1 and won the league’s Western Conference in 1985. The Invaders, featuring such future NFL standouts as quarterback Bobby Hebert and wide receiver Anthony Carter, advanced to the third USFL Championship Game before losing to the Baltimore Stars, 28-24.

-       The World Football League’s Southern California Sun, based in Anaheim, went 13-7 and won the WFL’s Western Division in 1974 before losing in the first round of the playoffs at home to The Hawaiians, 32-14.

So there’s a history of alternative professional football doing well in California, and we hope to replicate that with our own California-based A11FL team.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A11FL Top 10 – media markets without a modern outdoor alternative pro football history

What are the top 10 highest-ranked Nielsen Designated Market Area (DMA) television markets that haven’t had an outdoor alternative professional football team in the “modern era” (for this purpose, defined as 1974-current)?

It is a quite surprising list, when one looks at some of the very big markets at the top:

5th - Dallas-Fort Worth. This top-five market never had a team in the World Football League (1974-75), United States Football League (1983-85), World League of American Football/NFL Europe (1991-92, 1995-2007), XFL (2001) or the United Football League (2009-12). Dallas did, however, have a “team” in the original incarnation of the WLAF, but it was an 11th team/taxi squad for the other 10 teams to pick players from, and “Team Dallas” never played a game.

9th – Atlanta. Another major market without an outdoor alternative professional football team in the last 40 years, Atlanta loves its football, but it hasn’t had the chance to love another pro team other than the National Football League’s Falcons in that time.

12th – Seattle. The Emerald City has had its Seahawks since 1976, but no other team in the five preeminent outdoor alternative leagues in the last four decades.

15th – Minneapolis-St. Paul. The Twin Cities have seen the “Purple People Eaters,” Cris Carter, Randy Moss and Adrian Peterson come through as Vikings, but not another team in any of the other aforementioned leagues.

16th – Miami. While Miami hasn’t had a team in the WFL, USFL, WLAF/NFLE, XFL or UFL, it almost did. Had the USFL not moved to the fall of 1986, it would have had a team in the spring of 1985. The Washington Federals were planning to move to Miami, but with the move to the fall, the Feds moved to Orlando. Miami also nearly had a Canadian Football League team, but that fell through with the rest of the CFL’s American experiment.

18th – Cleveland. The Browns have been a part of the NFL, then on Art Modell-imposed hiatus, then back again, but the home of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame hasn’t seen any other outdoor pro football teams in the last 40 years.

21st – St. Louis. While the Gateway to the West has had two NFL teams since 1974, the Cardinals and the Rams, it hasn’t had a team in any of the big outdoor alternative professional football leagues.

26th – Indianapolis. Indy didn’t even have an NFL team until the Colts moved there in 1984, and it didn’t had any team in the WFL, USFL, WLAF/NFLE, XFL or UFL.

28th – San Diego. The NFL’s Chargers have been a mainstay over the years, but they have been San Diego’s lone tenant in outdoor pro football over the years. The USFL flirted with San Diego twice, but those proposed teams ended up in other cities both times.

29th – Nashville. Nashville got the ex-Oilers not too long ago, but they were without an outdoor pro football team until then. Nashville rounding out this list means 10 of the top 29 media markets haven’t had an outdoor alternative professional football team in the last 40 years.

Monday, June 24, 2013

A11FL Play of the Week – Base Out Creep 178 Cross

Every good offensive playbook has a few trick plays.

One of the A11 trick plays with the most big-play potential is “Base Out Creep 178 Cross.” Base Out Creep 178 Cross features four possible down-field pass targets, two potential check-down lateral possibilities and an optional check-down route by the running back. With as many as seven options for the quarterback, the 3-4 players doing the blocking at/near the line of scrimmage need to be pitch perfect in their assignments.

-       The quarterback is in the shotgun, and takes a five-step drop. There is no designed rollout on this play.

-       The two outside receivers, the “X” to the left and the “Z” to the right, both run a post-corner route. The two inside slot receivers, the “A” to the left and the “B” to the right, both run a 4-yard shallow cross route. Those slots are to sit on the far hash mark against a zone defense, and are to continue across the field against man coverage.

-       The two middle slot players, the “R” to the left and the “E” to the right, both are ineligible receivers on the line of scrimmage. However, they can take a lateral pass, so they both run a decoy negative bubble.

-       The three inside “restricted linemen,” the center, the “U” to the left of the center and the “Y” to the right of the center, pass block, as does the running back. The back either can block the defensive end or can check to the circle route against an odd front with no blitz from the defense.

As with any play, perfect execution depends on everyone on the play doing their job. But with the right timing for the play call – and the right defense to use it against – Base Out Creep 178 Cross can get a sputtering offense back on the right track quickly.

Friday, June 21, 2013

What will set the A11FL apart?

The A11 Football League will kick off its first full season in the spring of 2015.

And when it does, it will have had the ability to take advantage of a number of nuances other outdoor alternative football leagues either didn’t have available, or didn’t fully utilize.

Lead time – From its initial soft launch to kickoff, the A11FL will have had 23 months to get everything in place. That seems like an eternity compared to the World Football League of the 1970s (nine months), the United States Football League of the 1980s (10 months) and the XFL of the 2000s (12 months). The World League of American Football of the 1990s also had nearly two years of lead time, but it also was a National Football League entity.

Technology – The A11FL will have both old-school (television, newspapers and radio) and new-school (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram,, etc.) methods of getting the word out to fans. The recently-departed United Football League had most of those benefits as well, but didn’t fully utilize them until after its first season in 2009. The XFL basically had its Web site and the old-school methods; and the WFL, USFL and WLAF all were pre-Internet.

Fan engagement – Every league wants its fans to be engaged. Otherwise, why have a league in the first place? But engagement is about more than just “name the team contests” and selling tickets and team merchandise. Right now, the A11FL is taking suggestions from fans on its Facebook and Twitter accounts, and via e-mail from its Web site, about anything and everything league-related. You can find out more about the League through its Fan Guide at

Single-entity ownership – Simply put, in a single-entity structure, owners invest in the league, not an individual team, and the league is centrally run. The most successful example of this ownership structure in professional sports is Major League Soccer. The goal in a single-entity ownership structure is perfect for a league like the A11FL – the league manages all costs, and it shares revenues in the best interests of all member teams.

Player safety – No previous outdoor alternative football league started its life with the safety of football players at the fore of the public’s consciousness. And the A-11 offense, which will be utilized in part by A11FL offensive coordinators due to the league’s one rule change of having no uniform numbering system for offensive players, by design reduces the chances of injury while still maintaining the speed, athleticism and dynamics football fans have come to expect from the game.

Community involvement – Players and coaches will be employees of the entire league, meaning they will be expected to be important members of the communities in which they play. This was done in the UFL, as well, but not from the league’s inception. In 2009, the four UFL teams trained in two separate cities (Casa Grande, Arizona, and Orlando, Florida), then traveled to that week’s games. Then, in 2010, UFL teams began to plant roots in their home markets.

The A11FL will be the first outdoor professional alternative football league to have all of the aforementioned advantages available to it from the outset. And there is no question that the advantage will be the League’s once opening kickoff comes in March of 2015.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Why will the A11FL kick off in spring of 2015?

The A11 Football League is slated to make its full-season debut in March of 2015.

That seems like a long time away. But in league-building terms, it really isn’t.

“Building a football league is a complicated process even with an experienced executive team,” said Steve Humphries, A11FL co-founder. “Kicking off in 2015 gives the league a 23-month timeframe to build a season-ticket base, and to do everything we need to do to put the best product on the field come spring 2015.”

In most aspects of life, slow and steady wins the race. This especially is true when giving birth to a new professional football league. The A11FL announced its formation in April with its Web site,, releasing details about its leadership team and a detailed fan guide (

One of the biggest questions fans have is why the A11FL is waiting so long to kickoff. The other top question is, “Why play in the spring, and not the fall?”

The recently-departed United Football League played in the fall, and the World Football League (1974-75) was a summer/fall league. All the other outdoor alternative pro football leagues of recent vintage – the United States Football League (1983-85), World League of American Football/NFL Europe (1991-92, 1995-2007) and the XFL (2001) – have been spring leagues.

“We believe there are enough avid football fans to make our brand of spring football league successful, and we are committed to delivering that,” said Humphries. “After enjoying the game during the fall season, they'll be able to watch A11FL, featuring versatile athletes at every position.”

With nearly two years to put all the pieces together and find high-quality athletes who fit the A11FL style of play, a top-notch leadership team in place, ongoing work on aspects like television and stadium deals and four exhibition games to showcase the product in 2014, the A11FL most definitely is headed in the right direction.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A11FL will fill a need for players, coaches

Let’s face it – there have to be people thinking what the point of yet another outdoor alternative football league is.

They see the alphabet soup of past leagues – the WFL (World Football League, 1974-75), USFL (United States Football League, 1983-85), WLAF/NFLE (World League of American Football/NFL Europe, 1991-92, 1995-2007), XFL (2001) and UFL (United Football League, 2009-12) – and only see the final result…they don’t play anymore.

What those people fail to remember are several things. First and foremost, there are countless fans of those leagues and the teams within them who have memories that will last a lifetime. Those fans don’t dwell on the end. Rather, they remember the games they went to in person with their fathers, their sons, their friends or all of the above. They think of the people they met and the friendships they made that last to this very day.

And they think of the players and coaches they watched ply their trade – players and coaches whom they might never have heard of, if not for those leagues.

Think about this…

-       How many football fans ever would have known how good inside linebacker Sam Mills actually was if he wouldn’t have found a home in the USFL with the Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars? After both the National Football League and Canadian Football League passed on Mills early in his career, he went on to a stellar three-year stint with the Stars, followed by a 12-year run in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers in which he went to five Pro Bowls.

-       Would Jim Mora ever have been a Head Coach in the NFL had it not been for the USFL? Maybe, but he had been a defensive line coach in the NFL just before being picked to guide the Stars in 1983. He won two USFL titles before going on to a 15-year career as a Head Coach in the NFL with the Saints and Indianapolis Colts.

-       How many people know that Adam Vinatieri, perhaps the most clutch kicker in NFL history, had to cut his professional teeth in 1996 with the WLAF’s Amsterdam Admirals before going on to, as of last fall, a 17-year career that includes four Super Bowl titles, two Pro Bowls and 1,867 points?

-       And one of the lasting positive memories from the XFL is that of linebacker Paris Lenon. Lenon was undrafted in 2000, then played the next spring with the Memphis Maniax. That propelled Lenon to an 11-year NFL career through 2012 with four teams, a career that includes 908 total tackles, 12 sacks, five interceptions and seven fumble recoveries in 175 games.

Go back and look at the history of outdoor alternative professional football. What you will see are hundreds and hundreds of examples of players, head coaches, assistant coaches, general managers, etc., who cuts their teeth in those leagues – and eventually made it to the NFL.

And the A11FL will be no different – except that it will be the one league that won’t be a part of the alphabet soup graveyard of previous leagues.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Florida A11FL team will look to follow in past successful alternative football teams’ footsteps

The first confirmed A11 Football League team will make its home in Florida.

If the last 40 years of alternative outdoor professional football is any indication, the odds are good that the team will have success on the field, in the stands or both.

-       In 1974, the Florida Blazers, based in Orlando, sported one of the World Football League’s best regular-season records at 14-6, and won the WFL’s Eastern Division. The Blazers then won their two playoff games before losing what turned out to be the league’s lone championship game, the World Bowl, 22-21, to the Birmingham Americans.

-       From 1983-85, the Tampa Bay Bandits were one of the United States Football League’s model franchises. The Bandits won 11, 14 and 10 games in their three 18-game regular seasons, and qualified for the USFL playoffs twice. The Bandits also were a hit at the box office, posting three of the top seven single-season average attendance marks in USFL history.

-       From 1984-85, the Jacksonville Bulls, while falling short on the field, were a big hit with the football-crazed faithful in northern Florida. The Bulls’ average attendance of 46,730 in their expansion season was the best in USFL history, and their average of 44,325 in 1985 was fourth-best.

-       In 1992, the World League of American Football’s Orlando Thunder, in its and the league’s second year of existence, went 8-2 in the regular season, won the North American East division and got to World Bowl ’92, falling 21-17 to the Sacramento Surge.

-       The XFL’s one and only season of 2001 saw the Orlando Rage win the league’s Eastern Division and have its best regular-season record at 8-2 before losing to the San Francisco Demons in the playoffs, 26-25.

-       And, most recently, the United Football League’s Florida Tuskers, also out of Orlando, made a run at a pair of league championships in 2009 and 2010 – a run that included an undefeated regular season (6-0) in 2009. The Tuskers, however, lost in the title game both times to the Las Vegas Locomotives.

OK, so Florida-based alternative outdoor professional football teams haven’t been able to bring home the big prize in their respective leagues. But that will be the goal of the A11FL’s Florida-based team – to end the string of 40 years of frustration.

Friday, June 14, 2013

A11FL Q&A – Steve Humphries

This week’s “A11FL Q&A” is with A11 Football League co-founder Steve Humphries. Humphries brings seven years of cutting-edge football operations experience to the league’s development, and is leading the charge in the league’s alternative media strategy.

How exciting is it for you to be the co-creator of a professional football league that will have both modern elements and elements that bring pro football back to its roots?

The A11 experiment in 2007 and 2008 showed how exciting this game can be, and that it looks just like the game of football everyone loves, just more spread by design. Once we add coaches and players competing and creating a knowledge base of this new game, it will be real interesting to see it stacks up against fall football. In the Bleacher Report's article about the Top 25 NCAA Quarterbacks for 2013, seven of the first 10 would be A11FL quarterbacks. Pretty awesome.

How pleased are you with the executives the A11FL has assembled to date, and also with the early progress of the A11FL?

Hiring Scott McKibben as CEO and Mike Keller as President and COO give this league the best chance of success. As former head of the Rose Bowl, McKibben has strong relationships with university presidents, heads of major conferences, sponsorship partners and media partners. He even had a hand in the development of the new NCAA football playoff championships.

Keller has a lifetime of experience bringing start-up football leagues and teams to market, so he understands the herculean effort with all the moving parts involved in this type of enterprise.

They and the rest of the A11FL team are making tremendous early progress, all of which is necessary over the next 18 months before we kickoff our first season.

How fast will fans find out about the A11FL's charter markets?

There is an ideal timeframe of approximately 15-18 months to properly build the fan bases of each team and give our season-ticket teams the best chance to fill the stadiums. We know fans attach their loyalty to teams over "the league," so we are working as fast as possible to put a few more things in place before the markets are announced. We have one shot to do our roll-out right, and that's our goal. So, sooner than later.

How is the A11FL working to not become victim of the pitfalls of past alternative football leagues?

Our 20-plus-month roll-out helps significantly with keeping the organizational and financial plan of the league on track.  We also put a lot of best practices in place, especially considering our President was involved with virtually every major football league that has launched or attempted to launch in the past two decades.

Our commitment to playing a slightly different, more wide-open game in the spring is key. We do not compete with fall football, and believe our style of play will even create a dual path for NCAA superstar athletes who do not fit the mold of NFL position-specific players. These versatile quarterbacks fit the A11FL game perfectly and will have career opportunities in big stadiums as A11FL players.

How important is the fan to the success of the A11FL?

We have a great opportunity and a great responsibility to be true to our fans and include our fans in the development of the League.  The relationships that we are building with our A11FL fans builds upon our knowledge of nurturing tens of thousands of coaches and fans of our style of football since 2007.  Our goal is to treat our fans like we would want to be treated. Our mantra continues to be - built for the fans, by the fans.

What are your expectations for the A11FL in 2015?

When the first two teams kick off on approximately March 15, 2015, I expect our fans will be happily supporting a league that has worked tirelessly to put a top-tier professional football product on the field. Fans will enjoy a family-friendly and affordable major stadium experience featuring teams with exceptional athletes at every position playing throughout the spring and into early summer. After the season is over, our commitment to the fans won't stop with the final whistle. Our coaches and players will spend time in their communities building relationships and getting ready for a successful second season. With our fans’ help, we know we can get there.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A11FL Play of the Week – Blue Tight (A) Crack 27 Razor

Red zone plays with multiple options are a hit with head coaches, offensive coordinators and quarterbacks alike.

One such A-11 offense play that can cause havoc for a defense and most likely put up six points on a regular basis for the offense is “Blue Tight (A) Crack 27 Razor.” Best suited for a left-handed quarterback but still effective for a righty, Blue Tight (A) Crack 27 Razor gives the pivot a chance to show off either his accuracy in tight spaces or his speed, agility and sheer guts in running to daylight.

  • In the backfield, the quarterback will play-fake to the running back and roll out/waggle left. The running back will perform the play-fake and then proceed to block the first defensive player he sees coming free on the back side of the play.
  • The quarterback’s first read is the outside “X” receiver on the play side. The “X” will run a post-corner route, potentially leaving him open in the back corner of the end zone. The second read is the slot “B” receiver on the back side. The “B” runs an angle route no deeper than 14 yards – a seemingly easy throw for a lefty. The third read is the outside “Z” receiver on the back side. The “Z” will run a backside post route behind the back-side safety, unless the void underneath the safety or in the middle of the end zone is too big to ignore. The fourth and final read is the outside slot “A” receiver on the play side. The “A” goes in motion toward the “restricted linemen,” almost as a wingback, then releases into the flat as the quarterback’s outlet.
  • The “R,” or tight end, will be the inside slot receiver on the play side, but will stay in and block for the quarterback rolling to the left. The other four “restricted linemen” play regular offensive line positions and pass protect against the defense’s four linemen in a 4-3 alignment.

As with any play, perfect execution depends on everyone on the play doing their job. But with a high-quality running game with which to play-fake off of, Blue Tight (A) Crack 27 Razor is a touchdown-producer more often than not in the red zone.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The A11FL – a defensive coordinator’s nightmare

With the A11FL’s one and only rule change, allowing every player on offense to have an eligible number on the field at the same time, league offensive coordinators are going to have limitless possibilities at any time and at any spot on the field.

And A11FL defensive coordinators, unfortunately, will be keenly aware of that.

In the NFL, defensive coordinators need only worry about six eligible players in the huddle at one time, and they can be fairly certain where those players will line up on any given play.

Now imagine trying to stop an offense which has 11 players with eligible numbers in the huddle. Then imagine not knowing which of those 11 players will line up as eligible receivers. Then imagine if the top running back on the opposing team lines up as a left tackle, and not knowing if he will stay in and block, or take a handoff on a rather unconventional end-around.

Think about the problems the A11FL going back to professional football’s roots and having all players on the field potentially have eligible numbers will create for a defensive coordinator. It is third-and-goal at the 8-yard line. All 11 players in the offensive huddle have eligible-receiver numbers on the front and the back of their jerseys.

Will the offense trip up the defense and run an old-school West Coast Offense play like “Sprint Right Option,” or will it line up and run its A11-style cousin, “Blue Tight Stagger (A) Seal 18 Smash?”

It’s going to take some impressive defensive minds to be successful in the A11FL. There’s no doubt, however, the A11FL will find them.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A11FL and the Heisman Trophy – a good bet to pair up

What chance does the A11 Football League have of having a former Heisman Trophy winner on the field when it begins play?

If history is any guide, that chance is pretty good.

The modern history of outdoor alternative professional football leagues has a deep tradition of Heisman Trophy winners hitting their fields.

-       The United States Football League (1983-85) signed three Heisman winners right out of college – Georgia running back Herschel Walker (1982), Nebraska running back Mike Rozier (1983) and Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie (1984). Flutie, a 12-year National Football League veteran, also spent eight seasons in the Canadian Football League, winning three Grey Cups and earning a spot in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

-       Houston quarterback Andre Ware (1989) played in two other leagues following a short NFL career, seeing time in the Canadian Football League and NFL Europe. Ironically, Ware backed up Flutie as a member of the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts in 1997.

-       Miami (Fla.) quarterback Gino Torretta (1992) was part of the European-only restart of the World League of American Football, starting the first half of the 1995 season for the Rhein Fire before getting injured.

-       Colorado running back Rashaan Salaam (1994) finished his professional career in 2001 with an injury-plagued season for the Memphis Maniax.

-       Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel (1996), in the middle of an NFL career which spanned six seasons, led the NFLE’s Fire to a World Bowl championship in 2000.

-       Texas running back Ricky Williams (1998) had his highly-productive NFL career delayed by a year when he, while suspended by the NFL, played the 2006 season with the Argos up north. He ran for 526 yards and two touchdowns and caught 19 passes for Toronto before returning to the NFL.

-       Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch (2001) has the distinction of playing in three different non-NFL leagues at two positions. He was a safety for the NFLE’s Hamburg Sea Devils in 2005, then a quarterback for the Argonauts (2006) and the United Football League’s Omaha Nighthawks (2011).

-       Finally, Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith (2006) was Crouch’s teammate with the Nighthawks two years ago, but saw little action after four years in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers.

      There is a lot of time between now and the A11FL’s opening kickoff. So study that list of previous Heisman Trophy winners. You may see some future A11FL stars on it.

Monday, June 10, 2013

’13 college seniors, ’15 A11FLers?

Fans of the A11 Football League who are wondering which football players will join the league in time for its first full season of play in the spring of 2015 might want to keep a keen eye on the upcoming college football season.

The A11FL will scour all ends of the earth for the best players not under contract in the National Football League to play in its inaugural season. Over the extensive history of alternative professional football leagues, many quality players who take part in spring leagues in a given year were college players just a year-and-a-half prior.

In the spring of 1991, many players in the World League of American Football were college football stars in 1989 and didn’t make NFL rosters in the fall of 1990. Same with the XFL in 2001 – some 1999 college stars didn’t make the NFL cut in 2000, but made their professional debuts the next spring.

Think about it – how many high-quality college football seniors in the fall of 2013 won’t make a 53-man NFL roster in the fall of 2014? And how many of those free agents would rather play in a high-quality spring league than take their chances being the 90th man on a 90-man offseason roster, take part in one or two minicamps and not even make it to 2015 training camp?

Of course, A11FL players will be of all stripes – NFL veterans who want to keep playing, players from other leagues who want to come over, players who have kicked around practice squads and training camps for a couple years but never made a 53-man roster, etc.

But keep a keen eye on the 2013 college football season – you may very well see dozens of future A11FL players finishing their collegiate careers this fall.

Friday, June 7, 2013

A11FL Play of the Week – Base 20 Option Left

Talk about a play that both Red Grange and Adrian Peterson would love.

“Base 20 Option Left” is a run option play which has plenty of big-play potential to the offensive left (defensive right) half of the field, utilizing the decision-making prowess of the quarterback, the speed and elusiveness of the tailback and the blocking ability of the remainder of the players on the field, but especially the three players to the strong side of the play.

Base 20 Option Left combines many of the successful elements of both today’s modern spread offense and the offenses of pre-1950s professional football.

  • On the strong side of the play, the “A” – either a big blocking wide receiver or a tight end – will crack back inside to seal the end with a combo block up to the middle linebacker, leaving the quarterback to take on the nickelback or outside linebacker in space. The “R” – a slotback-type receiver – goes outside to block the cornerback, while the “X” – a possession receiver and solid blocker, cracks the free safety down-field. The blocks by the R and X receivers should create a lane for the tailback to run through, should the quarterback pitch to him.
  • The three inside offensive linemen are to keep the nose tackle and the two defensive ends from chasing down the play. The “U” – a quick guard type, executes a combo block on defensive end up to the linebacker, the center steps play-side to hook the nose tackle and the “Y” – the offense’s most powerful lineman or blocking tight end – attempts to push the backside defensive end to the other side of the play to keep him from chasing down either the quarterback or the tailback before working his way up to the 2nd level.
  • On the back side of the play, the “E” – another tight end type; the “B” – a bigger slotback; and the “Z” – the team’s best receiver in terms of speed while also having good hands and running good routes, hustle to cut off the defensive players covering them and keep them from chasing the play down from behind.

      As with any play, perfect execution depends on everyone on the play doing their job. And with the versatile athletes the A11 Football League will feature, any time you see this play in use, a big gain almost surely will be the result.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

So, what exactly is the A11FL?

The A11 Football League, debuting with four exhibition games in 2014 and its first full-fledged season in 2015, perhaps is the most unique alternative professional outdoor football league in the history of the genre.

In the most basic sense, the A11FL, conceived by league co-founders Kurt Bryan and Steve Humphries, brings professional football back to its roots while bringing out the best in today’s physically-advanced athletes. The A11FL’s rule change of no jersey-numbering rule on offense, meaning all 11 players can wear eligible-receiver numbers if a coach so chooses, makes A11FL offenses complex in the number of offensive play possibilities.

While the A11FL promises to give offensive coordinators countless potential – and defensive coordinators nightmares – it also should be the safest professional football league around. The A-11 Offense, by design, reduces the chances of player injuries, while still maintaining the speed, athleticism and dynamics that avid football fans have come to expect from the game.

The A11FL will be impressive on the field, and it already is impressive off of it. The list of those in the A11FL leadership basically is a who’s-who of top-flight sports executives. A league with names like Chairman Fred Walke, CEO/Commissioner Scott McKibben and President/COO Michael F. Keller involved isn’t thinking small-time.

So what can fans expect to see out of the A11FL when the ball is kicked off, and the United States has its first professional spring outdoor alternative football league since 2001? This league promises to have many intriguing and exciting elements to it:

  • On one play, an offense can come out and look like the 1925 Chicago Bears with legendary Red Grange in the backfield and run a play with more than six players with traditionally-eligible uniform numbers – creating multiple mismatches for a defense.
  • On the next play, an offense might come out in a traditional  I-formation and run the ball down a defense’s throat, ala Adrian Peterson of the modern-day Minnesota Vikings.
  • Come play No. 3, the offense might come out in a four-wide receiver, Run “N” Shoot-type look, a la Jim Kelly and the United States Football League’s Houston Gamblers.
  • Then, finally, the offense will go into the end zone for a touchdown after lining up in a shotgun run-option spread formation, just like the ones that have taken over college football, works well in the Canadian Football League and is starting to dominate the National Football League.
The A11FL will look to become the vanguard of alternative professional outdoor football leagues. Thanks to what already has been crafted and assembled, it is off to a very impressive start.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A11FL Magazine Q&A – Kurt Bryan

This week’s “A11FL Magazine Q&A” is with A11 Football League co-founder Kurt Bryan. Bryan is a 25-year veteran of high school and college football coaching, and the co-creator of the A-11 Offense.

How exciting is it to be a part of a league that is bringing professional football back to its roots?

“I admire and respect the players, coaches and fans of football’s past, and I never compare eras because that’s not fair either way. Regarding the A11FL, we’re honoring the game’s true essence of its more-pure bygone days, and combining it with modern athletes and wide-open strategies. Fortunately, it makes sense and everybody wins.”

How pleased are you with the executives the A11FL has assembled to date, and also with the early progress of the A11FL leading up to the Showcase Games of 2014 and the inaugural full-season of 2015?

“The A11FL is being led by outstanding sports-business executives possessing remarkably successful backgrounds. The A11FL offers a very exciting and unique product that nobody else can; therefore, our executives are doing things properly - securing long-term deals for excellent stadiums that have room for growth, lining up sponsors and media partners and carefully screening the elite investor groups wanting to join the league. To be clear, this type of serious endeavor is not a race, it’s a marathon, and the A11FL is being constructed upon a rock-solid foundation to stand the test of time. Our Showcase Games in the spring of 2014 will give fans a sneak peek into the dynamic future of the A11FL, a preview of the A-11 pro game that will feature the most innovative brand of elite football available.”

How exciting will the possibilities be for fans if a team’s offense uses both A-11 and regular offensive principles in a game?

“The A11FL game is going to be a blast for the fans to watch and interact with. since there are thousands of possible options for coaches and players to choose from beginning from the outset, the A11FL will offer the most unpredictable brand of pro football ever. Literally on a play-by-play basis, fans won’t know if their favorite team will utilize a warp-speed, no-huddle A-11 Offense, or the Power I or some type of innovative hybridization. And it will be awesome on both sides of the ball.”

What are your expectations for the A11FL in 2015?
“The A11FL will be a major-league level and elite spring pro football league, playing its games in front of thousands of fans who are having an affordable and fun experience, while the games are being broadcast on regional and national television.”

What are some of the key aspects of the league you want to have finalized before, say, the beginning of 2013 NFL training camp?
“The league has narrowed down its list of big-market city team locations to a possible list of 12 candidates. We’ll have at least one major sponsor on board, and broadcast deals wrapped up with at least one, maybe two media partners. I think we can do it!”

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A look at the history of football jersey numbering, offensive player alignment

By Dusty Sloan

The A11FL has consistently said that it will be traditional – in every sense of the word – professional football, but with one rule change.  That one rule change will allow all 11 players on the field to wear eligible jersey numbers – giving the new professional football league the ability to not only go back to football’s roots, but also allow it to be the most innovative offensive football league around.

Think about it. Offensive linemen in the National Football League and American college football have to wear uniform numbers ranging from 50 to 79, and offensive linemen in the Canadian Football League have to wear uniform numbers ranging from 50 to 69. But in the A11FL,  by dropping the jersey numbering requirement, “restricted linemen” can wear any number they choose.

For more context, let’s take a look at the current numbering systems and offensive player alignment rules at various levels of professional and college football:

  • NFL (from the 2012 NFL rule book) – Players have jersey numbers based on their position. Quarterbacks, punters and placekickers are assigned numbers from 1-19; running backs and defensive backs, 20-49; centers, 50-79; offensive guards and tackles, 60-79; wide receivers 10-19 and 80-89; tight ends 80-89; defensive linemen 50-79 and 90-99 and linebackers 50-59 and 90-99.
  • CFL (from the 2011 CFL rule book) – Eligible receivers will wear numbers from 0-49 and 70-00, and ineligible receivers will wear numbers from 50-69. On all scrimmage plays, at least five line players, including the center, shall be identified as ineligible pass receivers and must be positioned in a continuous, unbroken line. One player at each end of the line shall be identified as an eligible pass receiver. The exceptions to the rule are scrimmage kicks, extra-point kicks or players with ineligible numbers reporting in as eligible. No more than two players wearing an ineligible number are allowed to line up in eligible positions.
  • American college football (from the 2012 NCAA rule book) – It is strongly recommended that offensive players be numbered as follows: backs (quarterback, halfback and fullback) 1-49, ends (wide receivers and tight ends) 80-99, center 50-59, guards 60-69 and tackles 70-79. The numbers 0 or 00 are illegal. At the snap, at least five players wearing jerseys numbers 50 through 79 are on the offensive scrimmage line (those players are termed “restricted linemen”), and no more than four players are in the backfield.

Jersey numbering rules haven’t always been this way. Until 1952, when the NFL began to change its rules to more easily identify ineligible receivers, Cleveland Browns Hall of Fame quarterback Otto Graham wore No. 60. Another Browns Hall of Famer, fullback Marion Motley, started his career with the No. 76. In 1952, the NFL began the process of changing to what now is the modern jersey numbering system. In 1973, jersey numbers were further restricted based on position group.

The A11FL will still mandate that seven players have to be on the line of scrimmage, and that five of them are deemed “restricted linemen.” But with the numbering rules change, the defense will not know which of the players in the huddle will be eligible or ineligible receivers on any given play. They could see a left guard wearing No. 21, or a player wearing the No. 7 lined up at left tackle taking a handoff. A team may have its quarterback quick-kick 8-10 times in a season Or have two quarterbacks in the same backfield.

The result will be that the A11FL will return offensive strategy – along with jersey numbering – to football’s roots. And starting in 2014, we will begin to see all of this play out on a professional stage.