The Amateur to Professional Developmental Football League kicks off its season this weekend and the Alabama Blackhawks come in ranked No. 4.
“I don’t really get into the pre-season rankings, but we are honored to be considered as the No. 4 team, considering the great teams in the APDFL,” Blackhawks owner James Fletcher told Developmental Football USA.
Last year, the Blackhawks suffered a close loss in the third round of the playoffs to the Prattville Patriots to finish the year 10-3. Now, they’re looking to build on that and make a push for the President’s Cup.
“I sum up last season as an eye opener,” Fletcher said. “We had a decent season, but it could have been a lot better. Our approach is more serious than ever. We must be more aggressive with our play and play calling.”
Offensively, the Blackhawks are expecting big seasons from wide receivers KeiVondre Watford and Jacob Bennett, and running back Jamarcus Brown.
“Jamarcus pound for pound is an absolute monster,” Fletcher said. “He’s not very big, but he is very hard to stop. KeiVondre and Jacob are two big and physical wide receivers that love contact. That’s only three players. I expect big things from the whole offense with a few new additions, especially the offensive line.”
Defensively, Fletcher will lean on veteran linebackers Jeremy Witherspoon and Corey Wells and veteran defensive end Justin Robinson to lead the charge for the Blackhawks.
“All three are great leaders and want to win,” Fletcher said. “But, just like the offense, I expect a big year from the defensive side also. We have a lot of talent in every position, but it’s up to us to make it happen.”
The Blackhawks need to make it happen early and often. In fact, they will be tested right out of the gate this year against the two-time defending champions, Mississippi Dynasty.
“They are currently the team to beat,” Fletcher said. “We have every game circled on our schedule, but we can only focus on one game at a time. Game No. 1 is in Mississippi against the champs.”
While every team wants to win every game, Fletcher also emphasizes the opportunity to mentor and mold young men along the way. In fact, he’s been doing that for awhile, since the team started as the Alabama Crusaders in 2013. The Crusaders lost in the championship in their first year and were one game away in 2014 before rebranding to become the Blackhawks.
As the Blackhawks, they have called the APDFL home all along.
“The grass is not always greener on the other side,” Fletcher said. “We have been in other leagues and the APDFL is by far the best I have been a part of. Great leadership, competition and Integrity. It’s not perfect but it works for us.”