Jeffrey Eiland has had the vision for the Alabama Steel developmental football program for several years. After putting in months of work to get things going, he finally kicked off his team’s first season in 2017, but not long after, his dream was delayed.
“I had a car accident, so I wasn’t able to be there and oversee everything like I should,” Eiland told Developmental Football USA. “We took a year off to rebuild things into the way it’s supposed to be. This is what God has given me to help me reach these young men.”
The Steel played a few games as a member of the Amateur to Professional Developmental Football League in 2017, but Eiland’s accident and other hiccups led to them temporarily pulling the plug to get Eiland healthy and for the organization to get its feet under them.
“It’s been a tough road, but it’s been well worth it,” Eiland said. “I’m glad we took that year off to make it better. This time, we’re bigger and better than we were. We’ve got a lot of athletes out here. It’s definitely worth my while.”
Not only are they back, they appear to be much stronger than before, this time as members of the Inter Active Football League.
“We wanted something in line with what we believe in,” Eiland said. “I sat down and talked with the IAFL during the championship game last year and I liked what I had seen and had heard. What they have is big, it’s about to put semi-pro back on top again. The way they have it built is going to be big and puts us back on top for people to watch. I believe it’s a bigger league for us to help make us bigger. I believe in what they’re doing and I back them 100 percent, that’s why I chose the IAFL to go into it, from what I heard and what I’ve seen myself.”
Due to the fact that the Steel have yet to play a full season, some fans expressed their frustration with the Steel being ranked No. 6 in Developmental Football USA’s IAFL Pre-Season Rankings. Even the team was surprised.
“I was kind of surprised because we took the year off,” Eiland said. “I told my guys that they probably looked at our past and the little they’ve seen and they ranked us from there. Like I told them, that’s a number and we can always changed the number ourselves. I was satisfied with it, but surprised at the same time. I believe in my guys and I believe my guys can be ranked No. 1.”
Winning this league won’t be easy for any team. For one, there are 41 teams, and two, more than half of them have a reputation for being really good. With that in mind, there’s a few teams in particular Eiland is keeping an eye on.
“The Alabama Sabers and the Metro Atlanta Horsemen,” Eiland said. “I think those two teams are going to be our biggest challenge. They’re quick and they like to blitz a lot. I believe those are going to be our biggest challenges for the guys to see where there at. Those two are our biggest games.”
Eiland, however, has his guys ready for the challenge as they look to silence doubters, some of whom have mocked their No. 6 ranking.
“We come out and grind and hit this field every day to get there,” Eiland said. “I believe we’ll be at the top in no time soon, as long as we continue to do what we need to do on the field, make the right plays, the right calls and have everybody working as one unit. It’s all on these guys with where we’re going to be at on that number chart.”
Offensively, the Steel will lean heavily on quarterback Jacob Thomas..
“He’s a great quarterback,” Eiland said. “He’s like a hybrid between Johnny Manziel and Baker Mayfield. He’s an awesome quarterback with great leadership and great vision. He’s a great passer and reads defenses like nobody’s business. He’s going to be an asset to us and he can run the ball too.”
He’s joined in the backfield by another man that’s not too bad of a runner himself, in running back Chris Jones.
“He’s shifty, quick on his feet, with great vision,” Eiland said. “If there’s a hole, he’s through it and he’s gone.”
Jones isn’t the only burner on the Steel offense. Fans should also be on the lookout for wide receiver Godfrey Golston II.
“He’s small, but he is fast,” Eiland said. “I don’t think anybody can stop him with the speed that he has.
“It’s hard to talk about just a couple of players when you’ve got a bunch of good athletes.”
It’s the same script on defense for the Steel, who are loaded with playmakers.
“We’ve got Raheem Curry at defensive back,” Eiland said. “He reminds you of Richard Sherman. He’s a great blitzer with lock-down coverage. He’s good. I believe he’s going to go somewhere in no time. Soon.”
Middle linebacker Darryl Wallace is also a staple on the Steel’s defense, perhaps the most important guy of the whole bunch.
“He’s the brains of our defense,” Eiland said. “He’s our middle linebacker. He reads like a D-I linebacker. He’s going to shine. He’s the heart of the defense. He runs that and makes all the calls.”
Defensive lineman Marcell Johnson will be in the trenches leading the way for the Steel’s defensive line.
“Can’t nobody stop him,” Eiland said. “No offensive lineman is going to be able to stop him. He’s big and he’s quick. They may underestimate him, but he’s going to be back there. We have a lot of play makers on defense, but those are some of the key guys.”
Next weekend, these men will finally get to see the fruit of their off-season labor as they kick off their 2019 season.
“Even if we make the playoffs, that would be a success,” Eiland said. “To make it to the playoffs would be a success. Getting to the championship would be even bigger, that is our goal and I believe these guys can take it all the way. With what I’ve seen when I’ve scouted, I believe we can get it the first year. To make it to the playoffs, that would be a success, to see the work they put in to get there.
“It’s all about the guys, what we do is come out here, take time out of our day and make sure these guys get to where they need to be and develop them to where they need to be. We’re like GPS’s to get them where they need to be. We’re out here to help and that’s what we do.”