After years of debate over when Salt Lake City would get a second professional franchise, the answer is finally here. Meet the Salt Lake Stallions.
The Stallions are part of the Alliance of American Football (AAF), a new league designed and pioneered by several former National Football League (NFL) players and executives. The idea of the league is to give the sport of football a second season in the spring during the NFL offseason. With the NFL championship over and done, the AAF is slated to kick off today with several games across the nation.
Co-founder Bill Polian was very excited to announce the beginning of this new league, but was very direct in his intentions behind the league.
“The reason we’re all involved in this is to give you [the players] the opportunity to get one of these,” said Polian, pointing to his Super Bowl Ring that he got with the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI. In several interviews, executives from the newly formed league shared a similar message — that the league is designed to give a second opportunity or act as a breeding ground for future NFL talent, and it shows in the makeup of the rosters for these teams.
Throughout the rosters, football fans will note dozens of players that they might remember from the NFL field years ago, or even this past season. The first ever pick in the AAF draft was current Washington Redskins quarterback, Josh Johnson, going to the San Diego Fleet.
Things get tricky here, because the AAF and NFL do not play at the same time, which means that NFL talent can play in the AAF during the offseason, which is exactly what Johnson intends to do. Fleet general manager Dave Boller was clear about his intention for Johnson, which creates an interesting dynamic for the new league.
“From day one, when we sign people, I say, ‘Hey, if an NFL team calls, you can go,’” said Boller. “That’s what we want, and hopefully they come back.”
Also joining the AAF from the NFL are recent quarterbacks Christian Hackenburg, who had a brief stint with the New York Jets, and Scott Tolzien, a journeyman who found spots on a plethora of teams before being cut out of the league.
Because of the constant pressure of an NFL team calling for top talent, it can be hard to predict who’s going to be on the field for each AAF team in any given week. The only thing that will be consistent is the locations of these new teams.
The Salt Lake Stallions join the AAF with seven other teams, including the Fleet, Arizona Hotshots, San Antonio Commanders, Atlanta Legends, Birmingham Iron, Orlando Apollos and Memphis Express. With eight new teams and roster spots to fill, Utah fans will see some familiar faces.
The University of Utah will see several players in the ranks of the AAF. Dres Anderson, a wide receiver, played with the Utes in the early 2010s and joined the NFL before earning a spot with the 49ers. After bouncing around practice squads, he will look to find new light with the Stallions.
Anderson is joined by Trevor Riley, a linebacker picked in the seventh round by the Jets, who later hopped to the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins before coming to the Stallions. Riley was with the Patriots during their legendary Super Bowl comeback against the Atlanta Falcons.
On the offensive side of the ball, Stallions fans can expect to see former Utah lineman Jeremiah Poutasi, who found himself on four NFL teams before coming to the AAF. Heading the Utah contingency on the Stallions is Matt Asiata, who spent four years with the Minnesota Vikings, before a short stint with the Detroit Lions ended his NFL career. Asiata ranks third all-time at the U with 24 career rushing touchdowns. Salesi Uhatafe, Tenny Palepoi, Keith McGill, Sealver Siliga, Gionni Paul, Anthony Denham, Kendal Thompson and Kaelin Clay round out the Stallions who have called Rice Eccles Stadium their home before.
The team plays their home opener at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Feb. 23, but the Stallions will play their first game ever on Feb. 10 when they travel to play the Arizona Hotshots. They return home after two road games to play the Hotshots and Orlando Apollos, then they will travel to San Diego, come back for a three-game home stand against the Express, Commanders and Fleet, before splitting the next two games, ending their first season with a home bout against the Commanders once again.
Game times will vary, but for the spring semester, football fans can enjoy a historical season watching teams chalk full of players looking for their shot at the big leagues.