ShareThis Page
Steve Spurrier returns to sideline, wins AAF opener | TribLIVE.com
NFL

Steve Spurrier returns to sideline, wins AAF opener

The Associated Press
| Sunday, February 10, 2019 11:34 a.m
734535_web1_734535-2940cea644354a96be4f33573cb8cf50
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
Orlando Apollos coach Steve Spurrier watches players warm up for an Alliance of American Football game against the Atlanta Legends on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
734535_web1_734535-caf839ea2fb64b93ad756cd4ab7cde07
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
Orlando Apollos safety Will Hill III runs onto the field during player introductions for the team’s Alliance of American Football game against the Atlanta Legends on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
734535_web1_734535-3f8db161a5604989bcfe1b26d5be109a
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
Atlanta Legends quarterback Aaron Murray throws a pass during the second half of an Alliance of American Football game against the Orlando Apollos on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
734535_web1_734535-7d96d762c8f84bd3abfca587fb711cfb
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
Atlanta Legends running back Lawrence Pittman rushes in front of Orlando Apollos defensive end Anthony Moten Jr. (98) during the second half of an Alliance of American Football game Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
734535_web1_734535-ac2870e7242f4c958b1468705a3dd6c6
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
Orlando Apollos coach Steve Spurrier acknowledges fans in the stands after the team’s Alliance of American Football game against the Atlanta Legends on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
734535_web1_734535-ba743888ee6040289c0f7b088eec243e
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
Orlando Apollos coach Steve Spurrier reacts after a play during the second half of the team’s Alliance of American Football game against the Atlanta Legends on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Head Ball Coach is back, lighting up the scoreboard and selling the Alliance of American Football.

And fans — at least those in Orlando, Florida, who showed up in the rain for Steve Spurrier’s debut in the new league Saturday night — are eager to buy.

The 73-year-old coach returned to the sideline for the first time since abruptly walking away from the college game in 2015, bringing along an entertaining style of offense that didn’t disappoint an announced crowd of 20,191 for the AAF opener between the Orlando Apollos and Atlanta Legends.

With a 52-man roster featuring 29 players from nine Florida colleges, there’s a local feel to the Apollos for fans of the hometown team.

It begins with Spurrier, who won the Heisman Trophy as a player at the University of Florida and later put together his best body of work as a coach at his alma mater, a mere 113 miles up the road in Gainesville.

And, there was just enough razzle-dazzle and imaginative play-calling in the Apollos’ 40-6 victory over the Legends to remind the faithful, who can buy season tickets for as little as $75, of the good old days.

“I think the fans had a good time,” said Spurrier, who improved to 6-0 in his first game with the six teams he coached. “They saw enough good plays, especially after the first quarter.”

It was a long night for Atlanta, which took the field barely a month after the sudden departure of coach Brad Childress and just days after the team decided ex-NFL quarterback Michael Vick would no longer hold the title of Legends offensive coordinator.

“We’re disappointed,” Legends coach Kevin Coyle said.

“I think Atlanta’s a pretty good team. Time will tell if they are,” Spurrier said. “Time will tell if we’re any good. It’s just one game.”

In the league’s other opener Saturday night, San Antonio topped San Diego 15-6.

On Sunday, Memphis is at Birmingham, and Salt Lake at Arizona.

Two hours before game-time between Orlando and Atlanta, traffic flowed freely and there were few visible signs that the league was about to make its debut at Spectrum Stadium on the campus of UCF, where the Apollos have chosen to play in a more intimate setting than the larger Citrus Bowl near downtown Orlando.

In stark contrast to the thousands who tailgate in a festive atmosphere before UCF games in the fall, only a smattering of fans mingled in a plaza near the 44,000-seat stadium on a cloudy and windy evening.

Rain sent some early arrivals scurrying for cover in concession areas beneath the stands and intermittent showers fell most of the night, contributing to some slipping and sliding and occasional sloppy play.

The weather even forced Spurrier to don a baseball cap instead of his signature visor.

“I think the rain deterred the crowd a little bit,” the coach said. “But 20,000 is pretty good.”

This isn’t the first time Spurrier has been part of a new league. His first head coaching job was a three-year stint in the mid-1980s with the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits.

He led Florida to a national championship in 1996, left the Gators five years later to coach the Washington Redskins for two seasons, then ended a long college career when he walked away from a decade-long stay at South Carolina six games into the 2015 season.

He smiled when he was asked about being unbeaten in his first game with six different teams.

“Even won with the Redskins,” he said, laughing. “That’s not easy to do.”

Categories: Sports | NFL
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.