Competition is always high in the Amateur to Professional Developmental Football League and 2018 could be the deepest lineup of teams yet. Perhaps the most highly-touted new team this year is the Augusta Ducks, which took home the USFA AA National Championship one year ago.
Like every team, the Ducks come to the league with the goal of winning a championship, but for the Ducks, it’s about more than that.
“I like joining new leagues to show us where we’re at as far as competition goes,” Ducks owner Chris Bradley told Developmental Football USA. “I love getting these young guys experience. We’re from a small town in Georgia. All coaches and owners think about wins and losses, but honestly, when we won the National Championship, it was a lot of guys’ first time being five hours away, in Florida. For a lot of guys, it had been their first time being more than 2 ½ hours away from home.”
This year should be the Ducks’ toughest yet as they look to keep their 37-4 all-time record intact, but as much as the APDFL schedule presents challenges, it also presents opportunities.
“I like doing a lot of travel,” Bradley said. “We’re going to Alabama. We’re going to New Orleans this year, I think we have a game in Florida. We’ve won 37 games and lost four in four years, I’m satisfied with that. Outside of that, it’s about getting these guys experience to go somewhere else. We want to go undefeated. Everyone wants to go undefeated. Our goal is to win the championship and you hate to lose, but to me, when I see the schedule, I say, ‘Wow, I get to take my guys to New Orleans or we get to go back to Daytona.’ That’s what it does for me.”
Regardless of the competition, expect the Ducks – which are ranked No. 5 in the APDFL Pre-season Polls – to be very good as they return their same core of players that have been instrumental to their run over the past four seasons. They’ve also added some key newcomers that will make them even better.
“We’re going to be a good offensive team this year,” Bradley said. “The last four years we scored probably 14 points a game from offense, but we had a lot of turnovers, so we averaged maybe three or four defensive touchdowns per game.”
Offensively, the Ducks have added Dylan Favre, which is Brett Favre’s nephew, to throw to a monstrous group of wideouts that may be the best anywhere at this level.
“We’ve got Ray Webber, Kevin Davenport, which we had last year and Curtis Sapp,” Bradley said. “Ray Webber is a big body, 6-foot-4, 225-pound wide receiver that has NFL experience. He’s going to bring that veteran leadership to the wide receiver core. Kevin Davenport, another 6-foot-4 receiver, he’s one of the trees. Him and Ray, he’s another big body we’ve had the last couple of years. Curtis Sapp is 6-foot-2, 230. We’ve got some big boys we can throw it up to as well as J.D. Johnson, who is our little scat receiver, he’s our speed.
In the backfield with Favre is a one-two punch at running back in Gary Rogers and 6-foot, 260-pounder Larry Albert.
“He’s all body,” Bradley said. “All muscle. When he’s running the ball, people literally just try to get out of his way.”
On the other side of the ball, look for many of the same stars to continue to keep the Ducks defense dominant.
“We’ve got the Four Horsemen returning up front,” Bradley said. “Casper Brinkley and Chris Caldwell at defensive end and Henderson Ware and William Colbreath at defensive tackle. Then we’ve got a nice little rookie, a young 19-year old, Nick Lanham, also at defensive tackle.
“As far as DBs, we’ve got a guy that hasn’t allowed a catch in three years in Martinez Gallman. He’s our star on defense, but it’s spread across, not just one player. They’re all doing everything at each position to back each other up and we’ve got some solid new additions in defensive back Vito Leggett and linebackers Leo Myers and De’Anthony Jones.”
Recently, the Ducks blanked a rival, the South Carolina Bulls 21-0, but their focus quickly shifted to the Alabama Blackhawks, which they will kick off the regular season against on Feb. 24, before opening up at home against the No. 2 Prattville Patriots.
“I’m unfamiliar with a lot of teams in this league,” Bradley said. “I think there’s 27 or 30 teams in this league and we haven’t played any of them. One I know is the Prattville Patriots, from being down south. I know the Atlanta Venom, but we haven’t played them either. They’re all new to me.”
One thing not new to the Ducks this year is giving back to the community of Augusta, which has helped provide the foundation for one of the nation’s top developmental teams.
“We have a thing every year called the Snow Fest,” Bradley said. “They bring snow to Augusta, bring a couple of trucks here and fill a whole park. We help at the children’s hospital, there’s a cancer hospital here in Augusta. We fed the homeless during Thanksgiving. We love doing things like that.”