The A11 Football League has made this crystal clear – it will have National Football League-quality players who fit the A11 game.
That might mean that teams will have more running backs that look like Darren Sproles than Jerome Bettis, but there will be a role for both types of runners.
Sproles, perhaps the poster boy for NFL overachievers, is listed at 5-foot-6 and 190 pounds. There aren’t many players in the NFL his size, but that says more about the NFL’s continuing biases (scouting combine numbers over actual on-field college numbers) than Sproles’ productivity – 2,147 yards and 11 touchdowns rushing, 3,240 yards and 27 touchdowns receiving, 8,253 yards and two touchdowns on kickoff returns and 1,559 yards and three touchdowns on punt returns.
In almost nine full NFL seasons with the San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints, Sproles has racked up 15,199 all-purpose yards and 43 total touchdowns. Not bad for a player who SI.com said prior to the 2005 NFL Draft had as negatives, “Lacks the pure speed to run to daylight. Looks small to the point of being tiny on the football field,” and said, in conclusion, “Lacking the size to be anything other than a role player at the next level.”
Now imagine a player of Sproles’ stature – a player who is NFL-quality but might not get much/any chance because of the NFL’s aforementioned biases – thriving in the A11FL, running draws, screens, pitches, halfback options and out routes from the slot, and returning kickoffs and punts in Florida, Illinois, California, Texas and all the other league locales.
Think about all the players in the history of the NFL who haven’t “fit the mold,” and still went on to big-time careers – Sproles, Drew Brees, Sam Mills, Joe Morris, etc. Those players quickly become some of the favorite players on the team.
Now think of full teams of those players – players who are more than good enough to be in the NFL, and just want to keep playing football. That means instead of one or two favorite players per team, you will have an entire league of favorites.