Tag Archives: WLAF

Ohio Glory

Coach: Larry Little
Stadium: Buckeye Stadium
Record: (1992) 1-9

The Glory went with a straightforward approach choosing Red, White, and Blue as their colors.

BACKGROUND:

The Ohio Glory were a franchise in the WLAF based out of Columbus, Ohio during the 1992 season. After the 1991 season the league decided to mercifully euthanize the 0-10 Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks. To return the league to a ten team league they decided to place an ‘expansion’ franchise in one of their finalists cities from before their inaugural season.

Among the choices were, Mexico City, Milan, Washington DC, and Denver.  In the end the league decided to bring the WLAF to Columbus, Ohio. As boring as the selection sounded, Columbus was actually a wise choice for a franchise which would play its games on the campus of Ohio State at Ohio Stadium.

Despite the perception that strong college football programs tended to blight other football franchise attendance, the Glory, had over 30,000 fans show up for games on 3 occasions, including a season high 41,853 to watch the Glory win their only game of the season, – a 20-17 victory over the Frankfurt Galaxy.

Unable to find an owner for the team, the league would run the franchise and appoint Peter Hadhazy to run the team. The Ohio Glory’s head coach was former Hall of Fame offensive lineman Larry Little. While other teams had minorities in many executive roles, Little was also the first minority head coach in the league. The WLAF would be his first pro head coaching gig, – which he admitted he had been dreaming of doing for years. With his big personality, Little was a very popular coach with the fans and media who swarmed him when he hit the field before games despite the team’s felonious record.

1992:

As part of the condition of the dispersal of the Skyhawks, – most of the talent from that team was returned to the draft pool, so the Glory in essence started from scratch. Ohio selected former Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Babe Laufenberg with the second overall pick. The Surge and Glory switched picks on defense so Sacramento gave them Center Curtis Wilson. Notable members of the Glory included:  Future AFL Orlando Predator head coach Pat O’Hara, and future Packer and Super Bowl champion, George Koonce. Future CFL and Baltimore Stallions wide receiver, Walter Wilson also made his way courtesy of the NFL’s allocation program through San Diego.

Ohio had a few bright spots in their single season in the WLAF as Walter Wilson would dominate the receiving charts finishing first with 65 receptions, and Melvin Patterson made a 99 yard touchdown reception setting a new league record. At runningback Amir Rasul finished 2nd in the league in rushing with 572 yards.  Over the course of the season the Glory went through 3 quarterback controversies with Babe Laufenberg, Pat O’Hara, and Greg Frey. Consistency proved to be a major problem for the team on offense, even though Ohio rolled up the statistics- they just couldn’t put it together solidly in one game.

Their low point was probably in their matchup against the San Antonio Riders. The game would be interrupted by a hailstorm and a tornado warning, but this would not stop the Riders from crushing the Glory 17-0. With Pat O’Hara under center, the Riders kept the pressure on the Glory all day long.

In the end, the Glory lost 4 games by a total of 16 points. Surprisingly the defense wasn’t bad, giving up more than 24 points in only 4 contests. Chad Rolen and Charles Jackson led the team in sacks and tackles respectively. Jason Wallace, CB, tied for 5th in the league with 3 interceptions, while Tom Rouen finished second in the league in punting yard and average, and also set a league record with an 85 yard punt.

After the season ended, Charles Jackson was named to the All-World Team along with Wilson and Rouen. The league reorganized after the 1992 season.

NOTES:

The Glory played their ‘preseason’ contest against the San Antonio Riders in San Marcos. The Riders trounced the Glory with Babe Laufenberg under center. The game would be used as a tie breaker for playoff purposes- but neither team needed it.

Since the Ohio Glory did not play in 1991, only Ultimate and Wild Card produced sets of the franchise.

LEGACY:

In 2004, the Arena league Buffalo Destroyers relocated to Columbus, where they’d remain until the AFL also reorganized after 2008. Although not among the retooled teams of the new AFL in 2010- Columbus returned to the Arena Football League stage in 2019 with the Destroyers name.

At times the city has been mentioned as a potential destination spot for the UFL and other fledgling leagues, however all of that has remained a rumor, as NFL and Spring football has escaped the beloved city of Columbus.

HC: Larry Little
QB: Babe Laufenberg, Pat O’Hara
RB: Amir Rasul, Lydell Carr
WR: Patrick Jackson, Walter WilsonMelvin Patterson,
Phil Logan
TE: Randy Bethel
LB: George Koonce, Marlon Brown
CB: Jason Wallace
K: Jerry Kauric
P:  Tom Rouen

At this time I am still missing autographs on these cards from:

Ultimate WLAF 1992:  Eric Harmon, Tim James, Babe Laufenberg (Promo).

Wild Card WLAF:  Darren Willis, Kent Wells, Chris Cochrane, Eric Harmon, Archie Herring, Tim James, & Babe Laufenberg.

Birmingham Fire

Coach: Chan Gailey
Stadium: Legion Field
Record: 5-5 (1991), 7-2-1 (1992)

The Fire’s color palette consisted of Navy, Gold, Crimson, White. The Navy was chosen for Auburn and the Crimson was a nod to Alabama which gave the team a very strong uniform palette.

BACKGROUND:

Gavin Maloof- a former Houston Rockets executive- desperately wanted a WLAF franchise. He went so far as to getting into a bidding war with a competing syndicate over the rights to San Antonio. Losing the bid to Larry Benson, commissioner Mike Lynn offered Maloof the Birmingham market instead. Jumping at the opportunity, the Birmingham Fire would be established, playing at Legion Field.

The Fire name was a slam-dunk and everybody in the front office and the league office really liked it. The flames on the sleeves and on the helmet was a spur of the moment revelation by designer Dave Boss on the way to work one day. – It also was well received.

Maloof hired future UFL commissioner Michael Huyghue as General Manager along with Denver Bronco offensive mastermind Chan Gailey.

The Fire strongly resembled the San Antonio Riders in style of offensive play. While the offense was more turnover prone than their Texas counterparts, the Fire’s defense was typically lights out.

1991:

The team could never seem to nail down quarterback, although former NFL scab Brent Pease took the majority of the snaps over scrambler and Vandy star Eric Jones in 1991. At runningback, former Bronco Kenny Bell led the team in receptions, while punishing fullback Steve Avery handled all the dirty work. Elroy Harris joined the team mid-season after beating the team as a member of the Montreal Machine and by the end of the season, led the team in rushing. Wide receiver would be long range threat Willie Bouyer‘s department, while Mark Hopkins and Phil Ross provided a nice 1-2 punch at tight end.

The Fire ran a very mean 3-4 defense. Outstanding linebackers John Brantley and Paul McGowan worked with underrated Maurice Oliver. The back four sported ball hawks James Henry and John Holland at cornerback and John Miller and Arthur Hunter at safety. They’d combine to form one of the best secondaries in the league. Among punters Kirk Maggio  had one of the top net averages in the league.

At the end of the season the Fire had 5 members make 1st or 2nd All-World League- none of which would be on offense. Brantley and Miller would grab first team honors, while Darrell Phillips (NT), Holland, and Maggio earned 2nd team honors. McGowan earned All-World Defensive MVP honors at the end of the season.

I watched the Fire’s first game in the WLAF on TV against the Montreal Machine. An impressive 52,000+ showed up at Legion Field in Birmingham, boosting the league’s hopes for the season. USA Network broadcasted the game, -a yawner of a defensive affair, that the Machine would win 20-5 over the Fire. It was a nice offensive showdown between Kenny Bell and Elroy Harris.

Attendance varied wildly throughout the season in Birmingham with a low of only 8,000 showing up against the Riders, in a sad defensive affair, as the Fire ground out a 16-12 win. I remember the last few plays of the game, (as in the WLAF kneeling to run out the clock was prohibited), Brent Pease kept scrambling to keep the Riders on their toes.  

The Fire finished 5-5, -good enough for first in their division over the 4-6 Riders and 2-8 Surge.  After the season the Fire hosted the Barcelona Dragons during the first ever WLAF playoff game in North America. A bit over 37,000 showed up for the game, with Eric Jones in at quarterback for the Fire, but the team fell 10-3 to Jack Bicknell‘s Barcelona Dragons.

1992-

In 1992 the Fire made some changes on offense and the front office, while keeping the majority of their defense intact. Brent Pease was sent packing to the Knights. In came Shawn Moore (allocated from the Broncos) and Mike Norseth. Kenny Bell was gone and Jim Bell from Barcelona was in. Along the offensive line the Fire grabbed the KC Chiefs’ Joe Valerio. Eddie Britton was paired on the other side from Bouyer to take pressure off of him. In the front office Michael Huyghue moved on to work in the league’s executive offices while Rich Nichols stepped in.

During the off-season the team also flirted with disgruntled NFL runningback Mike Rozier about joining the Fire- but little if anything came of the rumors. (The team just couldn’t afford the price tag.)  In the meantime, -pretty much the whole defense returned intact.

The Birmingham Fire started their 1992 season just as slowly as 1991.  If the Fire felt that the Riders and Surge were hard enough to handle in 1991, they had an even more difficult problem with them in 1992, dropping their opener 20-6 to Sacramento and squeaking out a 17-10 victory over San Antonio in week 2.  A tie with the London Monarchs in week 4 would be decisive in the contentious division rankings between the 3 teams, with Sacramento finishing 8-2, Birmingham 7-2-1 and SA at 7-3.

Norseth ended up taking nearly all the snaps at quarterback, throwing 4 touchdowns- to 12 picks.  Elroy Harris and Jim Bell led the rushing attack, combining for 852 yards on the ground. Bouyer again was the defacto receiver on the team, hauling in 704 yards on 57 catches, but did not have a touchdown.  

Defensively Oliver paced the team with 6 sacks, and John Miller had 3 picks. Both John Brantley and John Miller returned to the All-World teams.

The Fire played against the Orlando Thunder in the 1992 playoffs, where they’d be shellacked by the Thunder 45-7, -in the worst playoff loss in WLAF history.  

With optimism riding high towards 1993- despite the questions over the league’s continuing existence- fans were hopeful that the Fire would make the jump along with the Riders and Surge to the CFL, but opted to fold instead when the WLAF reorganized.

NOTES:

Gavin Maloof sold the Fire back to the WLAF after the 1992 season. The WLAF contacted former Alabama QB and Packers legend Bart Starr to attempt to lure a new owner, but folded before anything really took shape.

After reorganizing the WLAF reused the Fire name in 1995 for their Rhein, Germany location. The logos and colors were also completely different.

From time to time the Kawasaki brand has borrowed the Birmingham Fire helmet logo for billboard advertisements.

Birmingham hoped to host World Bowl ’92, but were ultimately not selected as Montreal hosted the game.

The Birmingham Fire were the only North American WLAF team to make the playoffs in both seasons of the league’s history.

LEGACY:

It did not take long for the CFL to plant the Birmingham Barracudas in the city in 1995, but due in part to mismanagement of the original Shreveport franchise, the dominos fell and all the CFL USA teams were shuttered after the season.

In 2000, the Arena Football League 2 would put the Steeldogs in Birmingham and the city also re-emerged in 2001 as a member of the XFL, as the Birmingham Thunderbolts.  Unfortunately both these franchises folded as well with the ‘Bolts after one season and the Steeldogs in 2008.  

Hopes remained strong though that the United Football League would select the city as a possible landing spot- but the UFL folded before anything got serious.

Like San Antonio, Birmingham returned to the Spring football stage in the AAF as the Iron. Just like the Fire before them, the Iron’s bread and butter was a bend-not-break defense, and a punishing ground game. The Iron were arguably the second best team in the league at its dispersal after 8 games- and were one of only two teams to clench a playoff spot.

HC- Chan Gailey
Other Notables- Michael Huyghue
QB- Mike Norseth, Brent Pease, Eric Jones, Shawn Moore
RB- Elroy Harris, Steven Avery, Ken Bell
OL- Joe Valerio, Carl Bax
WR- Willie Bouyer, Eddie Britton
TE- Phil Ross, Mark Hopkins
DL- Darrell Phillips
LB- John Brantley, Paul McGowan, Maurice Oliver
DB- Arthur Hunter, John Holland, John Miller, James Henry
K- Philip Doyle
P- Kurt Maggio

At this time I am still missing autographs on these cards from:


Wild Card WLAF 1992-

John Holland
Arthur Hunter
Eugene Rowell
Willie Bouyer

Ultimate WLAF 1992- 

Willie Bouyer Arthur Hunter
Kirk Maggio

New York-New Jersey Knights

Coach: Mouse Davis
Stadium: Meadowlands Stadium (NJ)
Record: (1991) 5-5 (1992) 6-4

BACKGROUND:

So you have to hand it to the WLAF, they were nothing short of innovative especially with the uniforms. Case in point: the New York/ New Jersey Knights with their silver black and gold, to go along with that amazing looking knight logo that is straight off of a chess set. It’s a nice blend of stylish and classy that would have been right at home in the NFL.

Playing in the North American East Division with Montreal and Orlando, Robert Sillerman was the owner of the franchise that he purchased for a cool 11 million dollars. A businessman at heart, Sillerman started SFX Radio Broadcasting, -the largest concert and tour promoter and one of the largest radio station companies in the United States. He’d hire former Cincinatti linebacker Reggie Williams to run his front office, and at that time Williams would pave the way being one of the first minority general managers in professional football history.

The team’s first move was at head coach, where they selected offensive guru and run and shoot proponent Darrell “Mouse” Davis, who had recently guided the Detroit Lions ‘Silver Stretch’ offense. He’d hire Larry Zierlein to run the offensive line and be co-offensive coordinator. The team made its home at the Meadowlands, and posted surprisingly decent attendance numbers with a high of 41,000 plus showing up for a week 8 contest against the London Monarchs. The Knights would also make the first overall selection in league history during the league’s positional draft, selecting offensive lineman Ceasar Rentie.

Reggie Williams and Mouse Davis take the reins of the Knights.

1991:

The Knights offense was nothing short of prolific, scoring over 40 points in 3 contests, however their gambling defense gave up almost as many points. Saying that New York New Jersey’s season started off slowly was an understatement. After 3 straight losses to begin the season, the Knights finally erupted in a 44-0 trashing of the Montreal Machine at the Meadowlands. This would be the Knights modus operandi for the rest of the season, as when they won games, they frequently did so by a margin greater than 10 points. Streaky NY-NJ would crank out 4 wins in a row, and then win its final two games to enter the playoffs, where they were quickly ousted by the Monarchs 42-26.  They’d finish 1991 5-5.

During the season, Jeff Graham quickly replaced Todd Hammel at quarterback with his receivers being Lonnie Turner, Cornell Burbage, Kip Lewis, and Monty Gilbreath, with Turner, Burbage, and Gilbreath boasting vast NFL and USFL experience on their resumes.

At runningback,  Eric Wilkerson (717 yards, 6.1 YPC) led the league in rushing and tied for the WLAF lead in touchdowns (11).  The defensive line was loaded with sack masters. Tony Woods and Joseph Campbell led the way (with 7.5 sacks a piece) along Craig Schlichting (6.5), and Ron Sancho positioned at linebacker with 6. In the secondary All World cornerback Anthony Parker would haul down a league record 11 interceptions along with former TCU grad and safety Falanda Newton who pulled in 8.

Texas Longhorn Bobby Lilljedahl punted for the team, averaging 42.3 yards per kick as the team would struggle at kicker after injuries befell Kendall John Trainor. Despite the defense’s poor showing in losses, they were the highest scoring defense in the league.

In perhaps one of the more comical moments of WLAF history, the New York New Jersey Knights during the 1991 season, set the league record for most faked punts and field goals in a game against the Monarchs with some astounding amount- like 8.

1992:

As the 1992 season approached, the Knights’ optimism was riding high. With the NFL making talent pools available to the WLAF, they’d grab Houston Oilers Run ‘N Shoot 3rd string quarterback, Reggie Slack and trade for Birmingham Fire quarterback Brent Pease. They’d also snatch up future NFL journeyman Doug Pederson who saw significant playing time on the team that season. The receiving corps remained intact, but young Kip Lewis would step up to lead the receivers in receptions with 46. The Knights pulled the trigger on a trade for Byron Williams from Orlando, but he did not see much playing time after the CFL season ended. Wilkerson again led the Knights in rushing, however quarterback Reggie Slack and Chris McLemore would cut into his numbers, effectively halving them.

With the departure of Anthony Parker to the NFL, the team had large shoes to fill at defensive back. The team’s turnover numbers dropped off severely from 1991, going from 19 between two players, down to just 13 for the whole team. Falanda Newton again returned to safety making 5 more picks, while Tony Jones and Richard Carey made 3 and 2 a piece. There was also a drop in defensive pressure and sacks with David Edeen leading the team from defensive end at 5 sacks.

Davis Smith and Cornell Burbage were dangerous punt returners and kick returners.  Smith returned 3 punts for touchdowns while Burbage took a kickoff 101 yards for a score, and lead the WLAF in kick return average.

Once again the Knights would get off to a horrendous start, dropping a heartbreaker to Monarchs 26-20 in overtime to begin the season. They’d continue to spiral losing the next 3 games, but credit Mouse Davis for righting his ship, as the team rallied and won 6 straight games to finish the season 6-4. In week 7 the team finally exacted its long awaited revenge over the reeling Monarchs 41-13, and in week 9 slaughtered the Dragons 47-0. Unfortunately, like the Riders, (at 7-3) the Knights (6-4) were left looking in on the playoffs, while the Barcelona Dragons finished 5-5 and in, because the Dragons were the European Division Champion.

Offensive Tackle Chris Dyko was named to the All-WLAF team in 1992 along with Cornell Burbage at kick returner. Reggie Slack finished second to Sacramento quarterback David Archer with a 98.2 rating, and first among quarterbacks in rushing along with a gaudy 7.7 YPC. All 4 receivers finished roughly within the top 20 in catches.

NOTES:

The Knights biggest rival was probably the Monarchs, who in 1991, they had a woeful 0-3 record against, losing 22-18, 22-7, and in the playoffs 42-26, before finally earning their long awaited revenge in week 7 of 1992.

I’ve spoken to players over the years who felt that one of the major reasons that the WLAF folded was because the NFL felt as though they were competing for merchandising dollars with their North American teams, and for many of them it wasn’t more apparent than the affordable game they could get from the Knights and the great uniforms they had.

NY-NJ has been challenging to collect in the sense that there are so many different players included by the different sets of the team. NY-NJ only played at SA early in 1991, so all the players I have collected from the team have been TTM. The Knights also have had the only players who have reacted negatively to my requests. Joe Campbell after a long conversation back and forth through Facebook asked me for $100.00 while Tony Jones responded to me with a thumbs down to my initial request.

LEGACY:

The Knights unfortunately folded up shop along with the rest of the WLAF after the 1992 season and was never heard from again.

While New York/ New Jersey has strongly supported the Jets and Giants through the Meadowlands and MetLife Stadium,  this would be the last time that the area would be able to accommodate (even marginally) 3 professional football franchises.

In 2001, the XFL’s New York-New Jersey Hitmen lasted a year before the league folded.  Afterwards, the UFL would plant the New York-New Jersey Sentinels in the area in 2009, but due to abysmal attendance numbers, the team eventually uprooted for Hartford in 2010. There were some Arena teams in here including the Dragons and as of 2019 an NAL team called the Streets. The FXFL also set up shop in Brooklyn briefly before folding as well.

In 2020 the XFL will again take another shot at the Spring market with a new league and team.

GM- Reggie Williams
HC- Mouse Davis
QB- Jeff Graham, Brent Pease, Reggie Slack, Doug Pederson
RB- Eric Wilkerson, Chris McLemore
OL- Caesar Rentie, Joey Banes, Mike Husar
WR- Kip Lewis, Byron Williams, Andre Alexander, Cornell Burbage , Lonnie Turner
DL- Craig Schlichting, Pat Marlatt
LB- Ron Sancho, Cecil Fletcher, Wes Pritchett
DB- Anthony Parker, Richard Carey, Mark Moore
K- Kendall John Trainor

At this time I am still missing autographs on these cards from:

ProSet 1991 WLAF Inserts: Todd Hammel

ProSet WLAF 1991:  
Joe Campbell
Falanda Newton
Monty Gilbreath
Bob Lilljedahl
Tony Woods

Ultimate WLAF 1992: 
Tony Jones 
Falanda Newton
Monty Gilbreath
Bob Lilljedahl
Tony Woods
NY NJ Checklist

Wild Card WLAF 1992:
Tony Jones
Reggie Slack
Falanda Newton
Tony Woods
Monte Gilbreath