One would be hard-pressed to find someone who has been a bigger part of the spring outdoor alternative professional football genre than A11 Football League President/Chief Operating Officer Michael Keller.
Keller has been intricately involved with the three major spring outdoor alternative pro football endeavors in the last 30 years – as the Director of Football Operations for the United States Football League’s Michigan Panthers and Oakland Invaders, as the General Manager of the World League of American Football’s Sacramento Surge and Scottish Claymores, and as the Vice President of Football Operations for the XFL.
He has won four championships in team front offices and been an integral part of the league-wide kickoff of both the WLAF and the XFL. And now, Keller is back to help see a fourth major spring outdoor alternative pro football league grow to kickoff - and thereafter.
"Football’s in my blood,” said Keller. “When a group of guys get together, and you know what a league can be, done properly, the flame gets lit again, and I’m just excited as hell that we’re making the progress we are with the A11FL.”
One of the things Keller has learned over 30 years in the genre is that spending money, particularly on player contracts, isn’t the end all, be all for a new football league. He says aspects like scouting and coaching are just as important, if not more so.
“Money causes a false impression that somebody has better teams because they can spend more of it," Keller points out. "One-third of all the players in the National Football League are undrafted free agents. We also have 500 colleges and universities who produce football players. Where are all those players going to play? There’s no place for them to go. We are going to do a better job of finding those players, and giving them a place to play."
Keller is unequivocal when talking about how good the quality of football will be in the A11FL when the league kicks off its first full season in the spring of 2015.
“We are going to be a stand-alone professional football organization that will develop players who are overlooked and are equal to a lot of players in the NFL. The average fan won’t be able to tell the difference between the quality of the players in our league and the ones in the NFL,” he said. “The quality of the football is going to be equal to any professional football that you see today.
“Don't get me wrong. I love college football. I’m a University of Michigan guy, but there’s not one college football team that could beat the worst team in the A11FL. Yes, the NFL has first choice, and we’re not denying that, but the NFL doesn’t have a monopoly on making the right choices.”