The Alliance of American Football is in its infancy as a league, and for the first time in its history, its teams trimmed their rosters down to 52 men and finalized them for the start of the season. The personnel decisions of the eight AAF teams were made public on Wednesday, and six former Pitt players made the cut.
Tight end Scott Orndoff secured a spot on the roster of the Orlando Apollos, and offensive lineman Jaryd Jones-Smith was able to do the same with the San Antonio Commanders. However, the highest concentration of former Panthers was on the roster of the San Diego Fleet, as wide receiver Dontez Ford, offensive lineman Brandon Hodges, defensive lineman Shakir Soto and punter Ryan Winslow were all listed among the team’s 52 players.
Of the four Pitt products in San Diego, Winslow is the only one who will take the field unopposed, as he is the Fleet’s lone punter. But it appears much is also expected of Ford, and he could see plenty of playing time.
Ford stood out early in the team’s training camp in San Antonio, as he made a diving catch during a morning practice session on Jan. 5 that brought his teammates on the sideline to their feet. He was later praised by Fleet head coach Mike Martz for his route running on Jan. 12 before coming up with another impressive grab during seven-on-seven drills. Fleet wide receivers coach Az-Zahir Hakim spoke optimistically about what Ford brings to the table last week.
“I think he’s going to help us big time,” Hakim said, according to Jeff Goldberg of AAF.com. “He’s strong to the ball. He’s very detail-oriented. He asks a lot of questions. He always wants to get better and improve each day. That’s his mindset, and that type of attitude is going to help this team in the long run.”
With that said, it’s unclear what Ford’s status is, as he missed practice Tuesday due to a knee injury. The severity of the issue is unclear, but he showed resilience by bouncing back from a hamstring injury during training camp.
The San Diego Fleet will face the San Antonio Commanders on the road on the AAF’s opening night. That game will get underway at the Alamodome at 8 p.m. ET on Feb. 9. At the same time, the Orlando Apollos will be hosting the Atlanta Legends at Spectrum Stadium.