The Alliance of American Football


Adam Galliano, Writer

Professional football has been a staple for the American people since its first inception in 1920. Although the origins of football can be traced from combining parts of rugby and English football, it was not until the first athlete who received pay compensation to play. It was William “Pudge” Heffelfinger’s $500 contract with the Allegheny Athletic Association that began one of our nations most beloved sports past times.
Throughout the 20th century, the growth in popularity of football led countless children to play and train, honing their skills of the gridiron hoping to earn a chance at football stardom. Modern football is played nationwide, sometimes by players as young as seven and eight years old. School based athletic programs foster and educate players from grade school through high school, and when some of those players have the aptitude, they are accepted and play at the collegiate level.
Sometimes considered the precursor to professional football, college players perform on the national stage and, although the chances are rare, gives the uber-talented players a shot at making football a lucrative and substantial profession. Many different professional football leagues have come and gone throughout the years, from the United States Football League in the early 1980s to the XFL (Extreme Football League) from the 2000’s. But none have held the success and global recognition as the National Football League (NFL), the standard for professional football.
With the NFL being the most successful organization, and with literally thousands of prospective athletes trying to make NFL teams every spring, the odds of making the final 52-person roster are slim at best. These positions are usually only filled by the best of the best. So, what happens when a person is a “really good” athlete but not quite NFL level talented? Before the recent formation of the American Association of football, these players really had few options other than the Canadian Football League, Arena Football, or various regional semiprofessional leagues.
The Alliance of American Football, or AAF, was formed in 2018 by television and film producer Charlie Ebersol and NFL Pro Football Hall of Famer Bill Polian, a former General Manager. The AAF consists of eight different teams playing a 12-week season, which started on Feb 9, 2019. The Inaugural championship game will be held on April 26th.
The teams consist of the Arizona Hotshots, Orlando Apollos, Birmingham Iron, San Antonio Commanders, Salt Lake Stallions, San Diego Fleet, Atlanta Legends and Memphis Express. Many former NFL players and coaches are involved with the league, notably former NFL Head Coach Mike Martz, who won multiple Super Bowl rings as coach of the St. Louis Rams, and such former NFL players like running back Trent Richardson and wide receiver Charles Johnson.
Many players view this new league as a developmental league for players hoping to get a shot at the NFL or even a return, such as former Washington redskins Quarterback Josh Johnson and running back Zac Stacy.
According to an article form CBS Sports about the AAF, analyst Cody Benjamin states the league “is an eight-team league that exists to both complement the NFL during the offseason and showcase local, developing talent.” Its leadership board features former NFL players Jared Allen, Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu, and its mission is to provide “high-quality professional football fueled by a dynamic Alliance between players, fans and the game.”
It is prudent to note that many other former professional football leagues have not had very much success (USGL, XFL). With this league having the backing of so many notable former NFL players and executives, as well as being scheduled to run during the annual hiatus that the NFL takes from the Super Bowl until the new season begins in late August, this might be a chance to give diehard football fans a taste of what’s to come and also even give hope to those players who dream to reach the highest level.