Press pass: Cummings, Purcell suit up one last time in AAF
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah., -- The tombstone reads:
Alliance of American Football
9 February 2019 – 2 April 2019
“A stepping stone, gone to soon…”
Kicking off just one week after the NFL's Super Bowl, the AAF had aspirations of developing professional football players, while showcasing regional talent and providing fans with an NFL-offseason football experience.
Young men pursuing their dreams of either making it to, or making it back to the NFL. Included in the use of the AAF as a platform to the next level, were two former University of Wyoming players, Mike Purcell and Ryan Cummings, both playing for the Salt Lake City Stallions. It was also intriguing that the Stallion’s head coach was former University of Wyoming football head coach, Dennis Erickson, who led Cowboy Football to a 6-6 record in 1986, and also claimed two NCAA National Championship as the head coach of the University of Miami in 1989 and 1991.
I sat at home in Cheyenne, contemplating if I would travel out to Salt Lake City for the Stallion’s March 30 game against the San Diego Fleet, or wait until the season finale two weeks later when the San Antonio Commanders came to town. I chose the former, and to good avail. After traversing the state of Wyoming, and a slight portion of Utah, in brutal, white-out, blizzard conditions, I made it to Rice-Eccles Stadium, to what would prove to be the AAF’s final game day. Ever..
Upon arrival, I made my way to the sidelines and performed my typical walk around the field, perusing the best angles and determining my strategy for shooting the game. While in the south end zone, I catch a glimpse of a familiar face and within in minutes a 6-foot, 5-inch, 319-pound man trots my way. As he gets within five feet of me, he says “Good to see you DJ, and thanks for coming out.”
We exchange handshakes and a hug, and I respond with “Good to see you as well, Ryan, glad I could make it out for the game.”
The players retreat to the locker room, and I make my way to the Stallion’s sideline where I spot another familiar face. Sitting in the stands, front row, braving the cold, proudly sporting a Stallions hoodie and hat is Ryan’s dad, Lonnie Cummings.
Lonnie is undoubtedly Ryan’s biggest supporter and I have had the pleasure of getting to know him over the last few years shooting Wyoming Cowboy football. I make my way over to him where we exchange chatter for a few minutes, and I then ask him about the rumors of the AAF league folding. He talks it down, concluding that if it does, it has been a great opportunity for Ryan to showcase his talents and eventually play at the next level.
The game commenced and in a low scoring affair, the Stallions outlasted the Fleet, 8-3, in what none of the 8.405 fans in attendance would then know to be the final game of the AAF’s tenure as a league.
After the game, in an interview with 7220sports.com, Ryan spoke about how the AAF has treated him: “…It’s another opportunity, basically to play football and try to get to where I’ve been trying to go for a long time.”
He spoke proudly and thankful for what the AAF and Stallion’s organization had done for him, and remained confident that the league would persevere and finish the 2019 season. Three days later, on April 2, the league dissolved.
At the time of this writing, Cummings had been invited to the New Orleans Saints rookie camp May 10-12, and Purcell was signed by the Denver Broncos on April 22.
Contact DJ Johnson at DJ@7220sports.com and follow him on Twitter @DeeJaiJohnson
(In this feature, our photographer DJ Johnson will write a story from his perspective on the sidelines. Whether it's a coach throwing a fit, a crazy fan in the stands or a mascot fight, Johnson will talk about the things only a guy with a press pass can see.)