Today professional football returns to the Orlando area as the Alliance of American Football (AAF) Orlando Apollos begin play at Spectrum Stadium on the main campus of UCF. Some have billed the Spring league as an NFL developmental league. The timing of the season, to start two (2) weeks after the Super Bowl and finish two (2) weeks before the NFL draft, is surely complementary by design.
The AAF is co-founded by Charlie Ebersol (son of longtime of NBC executive Dick Ebersol, who is also on the AAF board of directors) and Bill Polian, the former Colts GM and all-around football genius. Other notables involved with the AAF are Head of Football Operations J.K. McKay (son of former Buccaneer head coach John McKay and brother to Atlanta Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay) and Hines Ward, Head of Football Development. Several AAF head coaches also carry some name recognition. There is the Apollos’ HC, Steve Spurrier, HC of the Salt Lake Stallions, Dennis Erickson, HC of the Memphis Express, Mike Singletary, and even HC of San Diego Fleet, Mike Martz. There is a decade of NFL head coaching experience right there.
The Apollos are led by GM Tim Ruskell. THE Tim Ruskell, who not only worked with Spurrier back in the Tampa Bay Bandits organization but also spent time with the Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons, Seattle Seahawks, Chicago Bears and Tennessee Titans. Tim knows football. Making his return to professional football coaching is Steve Spurrier, the University of Florida quarterback who won the Heisman trophy in 1966 with the type of play that prompted John Logue of the Atlanta Constitution to write, “Blindfolded, with his back to the wall, with his hands tied behind him, Steve Spurrier would be a two-point favorite at his own execution.” League co-founder J.K. McKay played wide receiver for the Buccaneers in 1976 at the same time that Steve Spurrier was a Buccaneer QB. There are definitely family ties between the Apollos and the Buccaneers.
Whether an NFL developmental league, a spring fling, or the next great professional team here in Florida, the Apollos definitely come from good stock. From the league brass to the executives at the team level, the AAF seems to have all of the pieces to provide a very entertaining sport, and, for Floridians, at the best time of the year to be out in the Florida weather, early spring. Once the Apollos clear the tower it looks like it could be onward and upward.