Alabaster group looking to start ‘semi-pro’ football team

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

A group of ex-high school and collegiate football players are looking to bring the state’s biggest sport to Alabaster in the winter and spring months.

For the past few weeks, a group of about 15 football players have been practicing at Alabaster’s Buck Creek Park in preparation for what could be a “semi-pro” team composed of Shelby County athletes.

After spending time playing for the Gadsden-based Alabama Bengals semi-pro team, Montevallo resident Chase Cleveland said he began thinking of ways to bring the experience to his home county.

“I thought ‘Why not make a football team in Alabaster?” Cleveland said. “You’re 15 minutes away from Thompson, Pelham, Hoover, Oak Mountain, Calera, everywhere. Think of the talent one team could have in that area.”

The local team, the Alabama Knights, would cater to athletes who played in high school or college who did not move on to the next level.

“You’ve got guys who are out of high school or out of college who maybe didn’t develop enough or weren’t ready to play at the college or pro level,” Cleveland said. “Really, it’s just a chance for those guys to play and have fun.”

Several local players have begun sharpening their football skills at weekly practices in Alabaster, but team officials will not decide the roster until tryouts on June 18.

The tryouts will be from 4-6:30 p.m. at Buck Creek Park, and will consist of a 10-yard dash, a 40-yard dash and pro agility tests. The tryouts will also feature position-specific workouts.

After finalizing the roster, the team will decide on a practice schedule convenient for most of the players, Cleveland said.

“We will set up days to practice once a week. It will be Saturday or Sunday for sure, because most of the guys either work or go to school during the week,” he said. “But I’m telling the guys that the season begins for them the day of tryouts.”

Because the players will not get paid to play, every member of the Alabama Knights will compete because of their love for the game, Cleveland said. However, the team will seek sponsorships and conduct fundraisers to help reduce equipment and travel fees.

The team’s schedule, opponents and season dates will depend on which league the team joins after its roster is completed.

Cleveland said he is looking to join either the National Developmental Football League, the Alabama Spring Football League or the Southern Arena Indoor Football League.

The Knights likely will begin competing against other teams in January or February 2012, and the season will last until about July, Cleveland said.

Although potential members of the Knights have already begun practicing at Buck Creek Park, the team has not yet decided on a home stadium. Cleveland said he has approached Alabaster officials about using Thompson High School’s Larry Simmons Stadium, but the team may play at another area venue such as Calera High School’s stadium.

“I’m excited about the talent I’ve seen already at practice. I’m pleased with the way it’s gone so far,” Cleveland said. “We are just ready to get back out there and play.”

For more information about the team, visit Leaguelineup.com/alknights or call Cleveland at 688-7786.