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.