The Alliance of American Football (AAF) has caught the attention of both football enthusiasts and the casual sports fans alike. This new upstart league, founded by media executive Charlie Ebersol and former NFL executive Bill Polian, launched in February. Out of the gate it surprised many with a debut of over 3.6 million television viewers on opening weekend.
While the, promising start was dampened by reports of financial woes. The AAF continues, having developed strong media partnerships with the likes of CBS, Turner Sports and NFL Network. Unlike other alternative football leagues of the past, the AAF does not view itself as a competitor to the National Football League. Instead, they are positioning themselves a feeder/development system for the NFL.
The AAF has been all about opportunity from day one. Bringing in players from all walks of football life. From former NFL’ers, to players from other leagues, and former college stars who have yet to find their footing in the professional ranks. The goal – help these players grow and reach their goals of NFL stardom.
Included in the growth objective, are some Latino players helping to get the AAF off the ground and showing there are second chances in [football] life.
Luis Perez, Quarterback – Birmingham Iron
If you’re looking for an underdog story, Perez fits that bill to a tee. After not playing much at the high school level, Perez began his college career as a walk-on at Southwestern Community College in California before transferring to Texas A&M Commerce. In 2016 he became the first Mexican-American to start for the A&M Commerce Lions and in two seasons he won the Harlan Hill Trophy, was a first team All-American, two-time All-Lone Star Conference honoree (2016 and 2017) and led the Lions to the 2017 DIV-II National Championship.
In addition to his accolades, he also threw for 8,327 yards, 78 touchdowns and completed 67.4-percent of his passes. The titles and numbers were enough to get him a training camp invite from the Los Angeles Rams, but not enough to land Perez a roster spot. It was plenty for the Iron though. They selected Perez as the fifth overall pick of their quarterback specific draft. In Iron training camp Perez beat out both Blake Sims (two-time national champion at the University of Alabama) and Keith Price (played in both the NFL and CFL) for the starting job.
Gavin Escobar, Tight End – San Diego Fleet
Escobar has the most NFL experience out of everyone on this list. Drafted by the Dallas Cowboys (47th overall) in the 2013 NFL Draft, Escobar would cut his teeth as the backup to future Hall of Famer Jason Witten through the 2016 campaign. After his time in Dallas came to an end, Escobar would also suit up for the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, and the Miami Dolphins through the 2018 season. He caught 30 passes for 333 yards and eight touchdowns during the NFL portion of his career. Next for Escobar, looking to leverage that NFL experience and light things up in the AAF.
Evan Rodriguez, Full Back/Tight End – San Antonio Commanders
This New Jersey native totaled 872 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns at Temple University from 2009 to 2011. Enough to convince the Chicago Bears to choose Rodriguez in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft. The Bears let him go after one season, but he would suit up for the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before joining the AAF. His ability to play two positions, and his skills as a runner, receiver and blocker are a major compliment to the pro-style offense employed by Commanders head coach Mike Riley.