In a normal year, former FIU running back Anthony Jones believes he would have made an NFL roster.
But in the pandemic year of 2020, with the NFL going from four exhibition games per team to zero, the chances for undrafted free agents such as Jones to make a roster were reduced drastically.
“They’re going to play who they’ve paid,” said Jones, who was signed by the Seattle Seahawks but was cut this past August. “If I had gotten the chance to showcase my talent in exhibition games, I would’ve made the team.
“But I never got the chance.”
To be fair, some undrafted free agents did stick in 2020, including ex-FIU defensive tackle Teair Tart, who played seven games, including one start, for the Tennessee Titans.
As for Jones, rather than just sit and wait for an entire year before getting — he hopes — another shot at an NFL training camp, he signed with a new league, called Fan Controlled Football, in January.
FCF, as it is known, is a 7-on-7 professional indoor league. It is the first sports league in which fans call all the offensive plays, using a mobile app. Fans can also call plays through the Twitch website.
Although the league’s roots trace back to 2017, this is the first season of the current concept, with four teams: Beasts, Glacier Boyz, Wild Aces and Zappers.
All games are played in the suburbs of Atlanta, at Infinite Energy Arena. Players are redrafted by the fans each week, with the exception of “franchised” players such as Jones and a pair of ex-NFL players: quarterback Johnny Manziel and wide receiver Josh Gordon, all for the Zappers.
Former Miami Jackson High and University of South Florida quarterback Quinton Flowers has been franchised by the Beasts, who lead the league with a 3-0 record, two games ahead of the Zappers.
The four-week regular season ends on Saturday. The playoffs last two more weeks.
Jones said he was surprised when he first got a call from his agent about FCF.
“It threw me for a loop,” Jones said. “’Fans calling plays? What?’
“But it’s football, something I love doing, and I’m going to make the best of it.”
FCF is a passing league, but Jones — in just four carries and one reception — has three touchdowns in three games.
“These are grown men I’m playing against,” said Jones, who has a bachelor’s degree from FIU in Sports Management. “Nobody is going to just let you score.”
The league has attracted some celebrity investors/owners such as Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook — who is related to Jones — and New York Mets pitcher Tevor May (Zappers); Mike Tyson and Marshawn Lynch (Beasts); NFL star Richard Sherman (Glacier Boyz); and Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (Wild Aces).
Players make between $400 to $750 for each of the season’s six weeks, plus room and board. The first week of games had more than 700,000 views, and FCF was the No. 1 sports app for that weekend.
THIS AND THAT
▪ FIU, still searching for an offensive coordinator, a special teams coordinator and a running backs coach, is set to start spring football practices on March 22.
▪ Ex-FIU linebacker Anthony Wint, who played two games for the New York Jets in 2018, has switched gears and is now an MMA fighter.