Home I Daily Fantasy Sports I DFS Featured Articles I The Spring League
In 2016 a man named Brian Woods made his second attempt in providing additional NFL proving grounds and founded the Spring League. Brian himself was once a safety for Mississippi’s Ole Miss but didn’t make it to the NFL as a player. Focused on his education and entrepreneurship, he was hired by the New York Jets as a Salary Cap Analyst.
The FXFL Professional Football League, now a defunct enterprise (2014-2016), was Woods’ first failed attempt to establish a developmental league for the NFL. The business model included a $1,000 salary per game for the participants, which ended up being one of the factors that exhausted the project financially. Now Woods believes he changed the program for good.
The Spring League is an instructional league taking place in April with its first edition this year. It is the arena of young players who remained undrafted or experienced athletes who were cut by their NFL teams.
Unlike the FXFL, the Spring League doesn’t pay salaries to its players but provides housing and meals. Participants choose to be Residents or Commuters of the camp for a month and pay a registration fee. For the first season of the Spring League more than 100 players were selected from the registered candidates.
The SL is a second, or even a third chance for ballers to get into the football elite. The Spring Leaguers practice with and without pads, eat, sleep, and study in classrooms together for a month. Players prepare for six matches between all teams.
The Spring League consists of four teams – North, South, East, and West, all with different coaches. The rosters consist of 40 players each, but since the league is not competitive in terms of the score, some guys appear on more than one squad.
The Spring League is designed to motivate undrafted players and keep them in shape, to give them hope and more chances to be noticed by the NFL scouts. Historically, some of the best NFL Hall of Famers, such as QB Tony Romo, went unnoticed and drafted later as free agents.
The Spring League made its debut between 5th and 26th of April 2017 at the Greenbrier Sports Performance Center in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Players from all over the US took part in this adventure under the hawk eyes of the organizers and the four coaches – Denny Creehan, Steve Fairchild, Donnie Henderson, and Terry Shea.
On the fields of Greenbrier, between hills and trees far from urban society, players had three weeks to focus and try hard to impress coaches and scouts. The Spring League already published a few videos from the practice drills and games on their Facebook page.
Each day there was a Player of the Day spotlight and a Play of The Day highlight video. The rosters included some well-known NFL names, such as RB Ben Tate who has 4 years NFL experience with the Texans, Browns, Vikings and Steelers. He even took part in the mobile studio as an analyst commentator during Game 2.
Other key figures of The Spring League 2017 were OL Mitchell Bell, RB Josh Robinson, OL Chris Boles, QB David Ash and a lot more.
The winner of the final game was Denny Creehan’s Orange formation led by QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson. McLeod’s field awareness helped the Oranges win 34-07 and receive the symbolic prizes from their Black opponents – “Big Hunk” candy bars.
There will be one more football week for the Spring League – The Spring League Showcase. It will take place between the 10th and 15th of July in San Francisco, California. The format will be the same, but with two teams facing each other at the culmination of the event.
The Spring League is not affiliated with the NFL but aims to change that. Its mission is to become an official partner of the NFL, CFL, and the Arena Football League.
For an organization seeking partnership with the NFL though, the Spring League does not impress with big media attention or quality production. The SL page on Facebook has less than 3k likes, the website was built using a free website building platform and the production quality of the match and practice videos is low.
In fact there aren’t many of them online yet. The staff behind the project are working hard and focusing on the players’ development and the NFL’s behind-the-camera contacts. The coaches are doing a great job and the players are giving their best on the field. If that attitude remains and the league keeps recruiting talented players, the SL’s improvement is inevitable.
This season brought representatives of 10 NFL and 2 CFL teams to Greenbrier, who attended both practices and games to scout for talents. According to the Spring League’s CEO Brian Woods, there was interest from over 20 more NFL teams, who had requested practice and game film from the league.
Out of the over 100 participants, 13 got invited to NFL mini-camps by 6 different franchises.
Six of the 10 NFL teams whose representatives attended this season’s Spring League activities, showed their interest by inviting some of the players to mini-camps. Thirteen players were invited, six of them by the Carolina Panthers. Here is a list of all the lucky Spring Leaguers:
After attending the mini-camp with the Panthers, the 193 cm/155 kg giant Mitchell Bell was invited to another camp and was later recruited. The Raiders got him 2 years ago but his contract expired. Bell will be playing as Right Guard.
Surprisingly, the success stories include a kicker – Josh Gable from Nebraska. This guy never played college football but impressed everybody with his trick shots and long field goals for the local team Nebraska Danger of the Indoor Football League (IFL). During his Spring League attendance, Gable was noticed by the current Super Bowl Champions – the New England Patriots.
The Patriots and Bill Belichick are well-known for finding talent in unusual places. Thanks to the Spring League and its connections to the NFL, the rookie, who played soccer in Italy during his college years, will get a chance to kick for one of the richest NFL franchises in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
There were disappointments, too. The Spring Leaguer Josh Robinson took another shot at the NFL but his dreams got shattered once again, as he received no invites by the scouts.
Josh was a hardworking but unlucky RB from the Mississippi State University who played in a team that already had its star – QB Dak Prescott. It is no secret that in a team with a great QB, runningbacks don’t shine much.
Robinson graduated early to be drafted in 2015, while Prescott continued playing in college for one more year. The plan worked and in the 2015 NFL Draft Robinson was selected by the Colts. Unfortunately during preseason bad luck struck again and Josh suffered a heavy neck injury which affected his performance and he was soon cut by the team.
Josh Robinson will surely keep trying to get back in the NFL. Just like all the other Spring League participants whose efforts were not enough or at least not appreciated enough.
These guys are determined to take any chance and even if the Spring League fails like its predecessors, they will find a way to show the world what they are capable of.
Is the Spring League doomed to fail or destined to become an official NFL gateway? Only time will tell.
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