The dust has just about settled on the defunct Alliance of American Football, but the cloud of negativity still circulates. While there are plenty of talking points regarding that aspect of the AAF, the focus of this article will center around the positive. The Alliance, in theory, was supposed to be a developmental league for the NFL. So, a cast of the “Island of Misfit Toys” was assembled and filtered to Birmingham, Orlando, San Diego, Atlanta, San Antonio, Memphis, Arizona, and Salt Lake. It served as both an avenue of retribution for those the NFL had discarded, believed to be on their “last leg” as well as the young guys that weren’t give enough looks. Though the league came to an abrupt and unceremonious close, it appears that the original intent is being accomplished. Over the past few weeks, better than 50 plus former AAF vets have signed with NFL teams. Some of those players of note are Karter Schult, Garrett Gilbert, Rashad Ross, Keith Reaser, Jack Tocho, JC Hassenauer, Kenneth Farrow, and Luis Perez to name a few. Several players still remain unsigned. However, there is none more polarizing than Birmingham Iron running back Trent Richardson.
Many already know of his fall from NFL grace shortly after being traded by the Cleveland Browns to the Indianapolis Colts. To this day, it is still a move that I never understood. After that, he would make stops with the Raiders and then the Ravens before departing to the CFL. Many fans, including myself, eagerly anticipated his debut with the AAF. As a matter of fact, I can’t think of a more anticipated debut than that of Trent Richardson. After his initial game against the Memphis Express, eyes continued to be on him week after week. It goes without saying that he was easily the league’s biggest celebrity. Trent embraced it, but most importantly he embraced the second chance at redemption given to him. “People are talking about me going back to the NFL. That’s the dream, but while I’m with the Alliance, I’m going to do everything I can to show I appreciate them. This second opportunity is big for me. Just the opportunity to play professional football. I missed it,” Richardson said. The odds were stacked against him. He was a forgotten about warhorse who many thought his chances had been exhausted. However, Trent Richardson would assume the role of the AAF’s version of Rocky Balboa and fight for his professional life week after week. He wanted to show that the game had not passed him by and would use his kids as motivation, “I think about my kids a lot when I’m on this field. If I don’t get this first down, if I don’t get this touchdown, I will let my team down. I most definitely will let my kids down,” Trent stated.
Let’s look at the stats that Trent Richardson put up while in his lone season with the AAF:
Highest Total Yards: Week 2 vs Salt Lake, 91 total yards 2 TDs
Second Highest Total Yards: Week 6 vs San Diego, 90 total yards 2 TDs
Highest Rushing Total: Week 8 vs Atlanta, 83 yards 1 TD
Rushing Yards: 366 yards Rushing TDs: 11
Receiving Yards: 205 yards
Receiving TDs: 1
2 Point Conversions: 4
Total Yards: 571 yards
So, why make a case for him regarding his return to the NFL? There are several former AAF backs that rushed for more yards and eclipsed the 100 -yard mark in a game, like Express RB Zac Stacy, Fleet RB Ja’Quan Gardner, and Commanders RB Kenneth Farrow. Richardson did not achieve that feat once. Suffice it to say, his numbers weren’t particularly glaring. However, in his defense the offensive line play for the Birmingham Iron was pretty bad when it came to running the ball. The offense was not balanced either. Birmingham’s passing game was the least feared in the league. So, defenses knew that the ball would be going to Richardson frequently. This would lead them to load the box and cause chaos at the line of scrimmage. So, it was quite often that Trent Richardson had to create his own yards. If I recall correctly, he led the Alliance in yards after contact. As long as fans can remember, Richardson never shied away from contact nor would he go down at the point of attack, or second or third for that matter. This carried over to his play in the AAF. “If somebody hits me, they gonna have to keep coming because I’m gonna keep coming for them,” Richardson said. Trent Richardson ran with power, authority, and tenacity. That is a strong suit of his that never left him. There are few that can match it. In addition, his burst is still there. Not once did he show signs of a worn down back. An incredible sense of passion would emanate from his every movement. He never acted like a dejected player shipped off to the doldrums of the minor leagues. Instead, like he stated earlier, he wanted to show much he appreciated this opportunity.
Based on these examples, I would say that he still provides great value. He has a lot of tread left on his proverbial tires. Take a chance on him. I will leave you with this last statement from Trent Richardson, “You know, in a few months, I definitely hope I’ll be getting a phone call from the big show. And if that opportunity comes, I’ll be doing everything I can to be that guy. Be the one they talk about having the greatest comeback, or you know, who has the greatest story in football. That’s where I want to be.”
I am a 2003 graduate from the University of Alabama with a degree in Exercise Science. While at the Capstone, I served as a student assistant with the head strength and conditioning coach of the Crimson Tide football team. I have competed in both powerlifting and bodybuilding for several years. In addition, I have served athletes and people through the arena of personal training. Jesus is my Lord and Savior. I am a passionate fan of Alabama, but do not make other fan bases miserable because of it. College football has my heart first, but I cover all areas of sports. Follow me on Twitter: @justinriley7!