What AAF Team Should You Root For? Pt.5 – The Orlando Apollos

After Tom Brady took a knee to bring the clock to triple zeros in Super Bowl LIII, the NFL season had officially concluded on Sunday night. Lucky for all of us, that horrible excuse of a game will not be our final taste of football until August, as the Alliance of American Football League kicks off their inaugural season this Saturday on CBS.

With the league being brand new, unless you live in one of the eight cities that has a team or know someone who is playing in the AAF, you are probably wondering who to root for.

Luckily for all of you, I have a bit of a gambling problem and not much else to do, so I have spent the entire day looking over each team’s roster. After looking everything over, I can honestly say that I am excited to check things out this weekend.

Below are my notes on every team. Hopefully this serves as some insight for the first games this weekend, which I am 100% going to put a ton of money on because, well, it’s football, folks.

Team #1 – The Arizona Hotshots

Team #2 – The Atlanta Legends

Team #3 – The Birmingham Ironbirds

Team #4 – The Memphis Express

Team #5 – The Orlando Apollos

If you think that Memphis was headlined by its head coach, boy do I have news for you. The main story behind the Apollos is directly connected to their “old ball coach” and his return to the state that made him a legend.

Look at that AAF official visor.

Throughout the 1990’s Steve Spurrier was one of the top names in college football. The former Heisman trophy winner had made his alma matter a perineal powerhouse throughout the entire decade, which helped make the state of Florida the centerpiece of college football during that era (Though I’d say that Florida State and Miami probably had more to do with that.)

Though he might have left for the NFL and then had a short stint at South Carolina, Spurrier belongs in Florida. Both his resume and age make him a perfect fit for this startup team.

The Apollos are headlined by quarterback, Garrett Gilbert. Don’t remember Gilbert? Don’t feel bad, most people probably wont. However, there was a time where many believed he’d be a house hold name.

Gilbert was THE guy in high school. He was the Gatorade male athlete of the year, the winner of ESPN’s Elite 11 challenge and even had some writers saying that he’d win a Heisman trophy one day. Unfortunately for him, that did not happen.

Gilbert was first seen on the big stage in the 2009 National Championship game when he was forced into action after Colt McCoy left with an injury against Alabama. He struggled mightily against the Tide, completing just 15 of his 40 pass attempts for 186 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions in the loss.

Things did not get much better for Gilbert after that game. In his first year as a starter, he led the Longhorns to a 5-7 record. The following year, he lost his starting job in week 3 the duo of Chase McCoy and David Ash.

He then transferred to SMU where he took over as the starter for two seasons. Gilbert’s numbers were good but he never lived up to his original hype. Gilbert was a sixth round pick and spent a short time in the NFL as a backup where he only attempted three passes in his career. On the bright side, he did earn a Super Bowl ring as a member of the New England Patriots in 2014.

If you’re searching for a local connection on this team, you can find it at tight end, with former Pitt Panther and Seton LaSalle grad, Scott Orndoff. Orndoff had a very notable career at Pitt and was a major contributor as both a blocker and a pass catcher during his four years in Oakland.

In the past two years, he bounced around on a few practice squads. Orlando is providing him with an opportunity that he has been searching for in his young professional career, which is consistent playing time.

Finally, my favorite player on the Apollos in wide receiver, Donteea Dye Jr. Dye is a little guy at 5’9, 185 lbs and comes from Heidleberg College, a small D3 school in rural Ohio. Despite his size and where he played college ball, Dye actually has a small history in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. You probably remember him if you watched Hard Knocks a few years ago.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any clips of Dye on Hard Knocks but I did find this video of him on Sports Center, which is pretty damn awesome.

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