John Minchillo, AP
Cincinnati Bengals NFL football tight end Jake Murphy (80) makes a catch as safety Erick Dargan pursues in a drill during NFL football rookie minicamp in Cincinnati, Friday, May 8, 2015. Murphy, an American Fork native, was one of 16 players with Utah ties drafted in this week's Minor League Football draft.
With the NFL, even if you do get a shot, you don’t really get a shot. They’re not always looking at you. They’re bringing you in for numbers or to rest guys. I like it because of what it could be. I see the promise of it.

SALT LAKE CITY — While places like Los Angeles and Las Vegas negotiate for NFL teams, Utah may have its own new professional football team to support.

Major League Football, an eight-team spring league, drafted hundreds of former college standouts, who either played briefly in the NFL, CFL or arena leagues, this past week.

While information on the league has come mostly through social media and the MLFB’s website, more than a dozen local players were drafted, which indicates Salt Lake City could be one of the cities with a franchise.

While the MLFB has yet to formally announce the cities where the teams will play, two things indicate Utah will get one of the franchises on Monday morning. First, an article on talks about a franchise that will operate in Little Rock, Arkansas as the Arkansas Attack. It also lists the other seven teams as — Utah Stand, Texas Independence, Northwest Empire, Alabama Airborne, Oklahoma Nation, Florida Fusion and Ohio Union. The article references trademarks, and a search of trademark names on confirms not only the Utah Stand, but also the other seven teams.

During the draft, the teams were identified by their head coaches. The hope of those organizing the league is that this 10-regular game and three-playoff-game season will showcase talent for NFL scouts who are building rosters for fall camps. Each team was given a territory and the second day of the draft allowed coaches to choose only from players who attended colleges in their territory. That led to a number of former college players from Utah being drafted to a team with Charlie Collins listed as the head coach on the MLFB’s website.

The first day of the draft, each team selected a “franchise” player, with most of the coaches opting for a quarterback. Collins’ team took Colorado State-Pueblo quarterback Chris Bonner, a 6-foot-7 QB who led his team to the Division II national championship last season.

Thursday the league began what it referred to as territorial rounds. The local players drafted in that round were: defensive lineman BJ Larson, Utah State; linebacker Stevenson Sylvester, Utah; wide receiver Andre Lewis, Utah; offensive lineman Miles Mason, Utah; tight end Jake Murphy, Utah; wide receiver Diondre Borel, Utah State; running back Joe Hill, Utah State; defensive lineman Joe Kruger, Utah; defensive lineman James Aiono, Utah; offensive lineman Bill Vavau, Utah State; tight end Devin Mahina, BYU; offensive lineman Junior Salt, Utah; punter Brock Miller, SUU; defensive back Brandon Burton, Utah; wide receiver Chris Robinson, SUU.

Sylvester, who was drafted by Pittsburgh in the fifth round of the 2010 draft, said he was asked by a league representative if he wanted to attend a workout for players hoping to get another shot at the NFL. Sylvester was released by Pittsburgh, then signed with the Bills in 2013 but was injured during training camp and released after the season.

“You just need an opportunity to show yourself,” he said. “This right here is an opportunity to showcase what you can do. …With the NFL, even if you do get a shot, you don’t really get a shot. They’re not always looking at you. They’re bringing you in for numbers or to rest guys. I like it because of what it could be. I see the promise of it.”

Friday and Saturday, the final rounds of the draft occurred with coaches choosing from any players in the country.

The second player chosen for Collins’ team was Cottonwood High alum John Martinez, an offensive lineman who graduated from USC and played Arena football after not securing a spot in the NFL through free agency.

Martinez said he’s excited because it’s “normal” football.

“As much fun as Arena football was, playing fullback and being able to run the ball a little bit, I still love playing offensive line,” said the offensive guard. “I love being on the line.”

He said it’s difficult to show NFL coaches what he can do as an offensive lineman when his Arena team asked him to play fullback.

“They’ll be able to see that I haven’t lost my touch,” he said. “And playing regular football, it’s a lot different.” Stevenson and Martinez said they’ll attend a training camp in February in Florida. All eight teams will hold training camp in the same location, and at some point in the next few weeks, the locations of each franchise are supposed to be revealed.

The MLFB website does say that the teams will not be in cities with Major League Baseball teams or NFL teams.

Sylvester said he wouldn’t have gotten involved with the newly formed league if there weren’t so many connections between the coaches and league ownership and the NFL.

“That’s what really sold me was there are so many coaches and people working for the industry that are from the NFL,” he said.

Organizers believe having a roster with players familiar to fans in the cities where franchises are located will bring an automatic and loyal fan base to the new teams.

Stevenson believes that’s a solid idea.

“I think this league could get some support,” he said. “They apparently have good football relationships with the potential cities.”


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