Knights charging ahead following first tryout session

By WESLEY HALLMAN / Sports Editor

Chase Cleveland noticed one skill set in abundance at a tryout session for his Alabama Knights semi-pro football team June 18 at Buck Creek Park in Alabaster.

Speed was a common trait among the players interest in joining the team for its first season next spring.

“We only had two guys that weren’t under (five seconds) flat (in a 40-yard dash),” Cleveland said.

Cleveland, the team’s head coach, held the team’s first tryout session last weekend. The former Shelby Academy football standout was impressed with the 25 former high school and collegiate players who showed up to be part of the team.

“They’re all young,” Cleveland said. “They’re excited about this second chance in front of them.”

Cleveland, a former standout linebacker at Shelby Academy, said the players who participated in the tryout session were mainly players just a few years removed from playing high school football, along with a few guys who played “one or two” years of college football.

Cleveland said the current team member with the most experience is Terry Dollerson, who played with the Birmingham Steeldogs in the Arena Football League’s developmental league in 2001. Dollerson, a fullback and linebacker who caught 10 passes for 226 yards and a touchdown during the Steeldogs’ 2001 season, will serve in a player/coach capacity for the Knights.

Dollerson, a 40-year-old Florence native, played on UAB’s first football team during his playing career with the Blazers from 1991-1995.

Cleveland said the team is currently made up of mostly 19-25 year olds, but is open to players ranging from 18-45 years old.

Cleveland said the Knights decided to join the Alabama Spring Football League, which will begin play in March 2012. Cleveland said the league is made up of 11 teams, which includes other local teams in Bessemer and Birmingham.

Cleveland said the team doesn’t yet have a schedule and hasn’t settled on a home stadium. Cleveland said he’s interested in playing home games at either the field at the new Calera Middle School on Shelby County 22, which is the former Shelby Academy campus, or Ricky Cairns Memorial Stadium at Oliver Park in Calera.

Cleveland said everyone who has expressed interest in playing for the Knights made the roster, and he will set a deadline later this year for a cutoff to join the squad.

Cleveland said the Knights plan to work out every Saturday through mid-August. The team will begin two-a-days with a practice session and a walkthrough beginning in January.

“I don’t want my guys to be burned out,” Cleveland said.