5 AAF Players Making the Most of Their Opportunity
The Alliance of American Football isn't just giving fans more football to watch after the NFL season. The new league provides its players an opportunity to both keep playing the sport they love and make a name for themselves—maybe for a second time.
Through three weeks, the league has drawn curious eyes from across the country, and some players have shined to the point people are speculating how far their quality play could take them.
Below are five who fit that bill.
QB Garrett Gilbert, Orlando Apollos
This former 5-star recruit out of Texas couldn't stick in the NFL after a college career at Texas and SMU. Gilbert bounced around from the St. Louis Rams, who picked him in the sixth round of the 2014 draft, to the New England Patriots, Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders and Carolina Panthers. And through it all, he only attempted three passes in regular-season action, all of which came during the 2018 season with the latter.
But three games with the Orlando Apollos (3-0), Gilbert leads the AAF is passing yards (827) and is second in touchdowns (five) for an undefeated Apollos squad that's averaging close to 33 points per game. He's completed 59.3 percent of his passes without throwing an interception.
And with the option to throw to two of the top five receivers in terms of receiving yards (Charles Johnson) and touchdowns (Jalin Marshall), it doesn't look like he'll be slowing down any time soon.
RB Ja'Quan Gardner, San Diego Fleet
Gardner, who starred for Division II Humboldt State, has been able to showcase his skills with the Fleet after spending time with the San Francisco 49ers during the 2018 NFL preseason. He leads the AAF with 281 yards on the ground and is averaging eight yards per carry. His three touchdowns are second to Trent Richardson's six.
The Fleet (2-1) didn't get much out of Gardner during an opening-week loss to the San Antonio Commanders, but he's rushed for more than 100 yards in back-to-back games. It's why after a 31-11 win against the Commanders on Sunday that he earned the nod for Offensive Player of the Week.
Just think what he'll be able to do if he got more carries. He's seventh in the AAF with 35, with teammate Terrell Watson right behind him with 30.
The San Diego Fleet take on the Memphis Express at 4 p.m. ET Saturday and can be streamed for free on B/R Live.
WR Rashad Ross, Arizona Hotshots
Ross came out of Arizona State undrafted in 2013 and, over the next six years, spent some time on the rosters of nine NFL organizations. He even scored two touchdowns with Washington in 2015, including one on a kickoff return. Given significant playing time with the Hotshots (2-1), he's proved effective.
Ross leads the AAF with receptions (15) and touchdowns (four) and ranks second in receiving yards (221). The Hotshots' next-leading receivers in terms of receptions are Josh Huff and Richard Mullaney with seven, and they could receive more targets. But either way, Ross' presence will be felt.
LB Terence Garvin, Orlando Apollos
Garvin played in some capacity for five NFL teams from 2013-18 after he went undrafted out of West Virginia, with the longest spell being three seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the most recent stint coming with the San Francisco 49ers.
In just three games with the Apollos, he's recorded three interceptions; he didn't have one in the NFL. Garvin isn't only proving to be a reliable tackler for the AAF Eastern Conference co-leaders, but one who can make quarterbacks pay for their mistakes, too. Can he hold onto his AAF lead for interceptions? We'll see.
DE Karter Schult, Salt Lake Stallions
In 2016 the Northern Iowa product won the Buck Buchanan Award as the FCS' top defensive player. With the Stallions (1-2), Schult is leading the AAF with four sacks. Shaan Washington of San Antonio has three and two others have 2.5, but no one else has more than two—something Schult accomplished in one game against the Birmingham Iron, the co-leaders in the Eastern Conference.
And he's one of the leading tacklers for his team with 11 solo, with two Stallions in the lead with 13. It wouldn't be too surprising if Schult wound up leading Salt Lake in tackles and sacks.