Written By: Roy Countryman @Blitzalytics @PreacherBoyRoy
David Connors @Blitzalytics @connors_david
Offensive Player of the Week
John Walford: QB, Arizona Hotshots
15/19, 212 passing yards, 11.2 ypa, 2 TD, 1 INT, 5 carries, 44 yards, 8.8 ypc, 1 TD
John Walford was the catalyst of victory for the Arizona Hotshots in their game against the Fleet. His numbers do not blow anyone away, but his leadership and poise were on display as he leads his team to a huge victory to put his team in the driver seat to make playoffs. John Walford, nephew of a 3-time NFL All-Pro offensive tackle Will Walford, he played his college ball at Wake Forest where he put up record-breaking numbers. His senior year he set single-season school records in passer rating, touchdown passes, passing yards, touchdowns, and a career record in touchdowns which garnered him named to the 2nd Team All-ACC. In his final game as a Wake Forest QB at the 2017 Belk Bowl, Walford threw for over 400 yards and 4 touchdowns. He also showed off his athleticism by running for over 65 yards earning game MVP and taking home the trophy over Texas A&M. Walford spent time with the Jets preseason team but was cut before the start of the season. Now this 23-year-old QB is showing his video game numbers he produced at Wake Forest were no fluke.
At only 5’11” a chance to be an NFL starting QB seems like a longshot, however with his athleticism and talent, do not surprised to see him make a roster out of training camp. At the NFL combine, he showed skill position athletics with a 6.6 second 3-cone and a 4.1 second short shuttle. There are a few teams where he could fit as a solid backup. He could fit what Pete Carroll does in Seattle or he could even be a better fit for Zac Taylor’s system in Cincinnati than Andy Dalton. If nothing else, Walford very well could have a long career dicing up AAF defenses.
Defensive Player of the Week
Steven Johnson: LB, Arizona Hotshots
7 Tackles (7 Solo), 1 PD, 1 INT.
Johnson is the epitome of effort, determination, and hard work. He blew out his left knee while playing at Wyoming Seminary where he was playing and get his education in an effort to better position himself for recruitment to a bigger football program. He did not allow the injury to deter him though and walked on at Kansas where he worked his way into the being a key contributor in his junior and then as a full-time starter in his senior season, which included a 120 tackle effort to end his college career. His pre-draft exploits consisted of stops at the Eas-West Shrine Game and a Combine invite. Even with a strong senior season and quality performances pre-draft he went undrafted but signed with the Denver Broncos immediately after the conclusion of the draft. He earned a spot on their 53 man roster in his rookie season and was a vital cog in their special teams coverage teams. He then bounced around to 3 other teams in the Tennessee Titans, Pittsburgh Steelers, and most recently the Baltimore Ravens all mostly as a special teams contributor.
Instincts, Instincts, Instincts. He has a terrific ability to diagnose plays quickly and then close on the ball carrier. He is able to sift through blocks with his strong and sturdy build and heavy hands to disengage from blocks and bring the runner down for minimal gains. He is a tremendous special teams coverage man due to his field vision, and he has never been given a true opportunity to showcase his talents as a pure LB, but in the AAF he has flourished. He also is an adept coverage backer in zone due to his instincts and intelligence and has the soft hands to come up with INTs. Great presence at his LB spot and will help align his teammates properly.
Johnson has had to shake off a few nagging injuries this year in the AAF, but when he has been healthy and on the field, he has been a force for the Hotshots both as a run stuffer and as a coverage backer. I definitely see a team bringing him to an NFL training camp in the fall due to his high caliber play in the AAF as well as his standout special teams ability. Teams like the Eagles, Steelers, Patriots, and Rams I believe would be good fits for his talent.
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