Several hundred football fans cheered when San Antonio Commanders players and a randomly selected fan removed a black sheet covering a statue dressed in the football team’s new uniform Tuesday night.
The maroon, red, and silver already seemed popular based on the number of people in the crowd at Walk-Ons Bistreaux & Bar on the far North Side who were sporting the new team’s T-shirts and hats.
Those fans came to see the unveiling and watch the Alliance of American Football (AAF) league’s quarterback draft on dozens of televisions. But when the team decided to protect former West Texas A&M quarterback Dustin Vaughan, a Corpus Christi native, effectively making him its first selection in the draft less than an hour later, reaction was decidedly mixed in the crowd.
Some were hoping the team would protect the homegrown Trevor Knight, a former Reagan High School and Texas A&M signal-caller, who went to the Phoenix Hotshots two picks later.
Commanders General Manager Daryl Johnston, a former fullback for the Dallas Cowboys, told CBS Sports part of what sold the organization on Vaughan was feedback received from the Cowboys, with whom Vaughan spent the 2014 season after going undrafted in the NFL.
“We love the way he threw the ball in the workout,” Johnston said.
The Commanders are one of eight teams in the fledgling league which is slated to begin play this spring and will hold a league-wide training camp in San Antonio in January. The AAF has slowly released coach hirings and roster signings and other news since last spring when it introduced itself as a new spring complement to the NFL populated with players who haven’t quite been able to make it to that level yet or remain there.
It is a league made for players exactly like Vaughan, who was released by the Cowboys in September 2015 and has since spent time with the Buffalo Bills, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Baltimore Ravens but still hasn’t played in a regular season NFL game.
Vaughan is a 6-foot-5, 220-pound pocket passer who threw for more than 10,000 yards and 123 touchdowns in college.
“We were looking for a quarterback who has a good record of production,” Commanders head coach Mike Riley said in a press release. “He had to be a passer with good athletic qualities to move around and make plays. We wanted a good decision maker with great leadership skills and a great appetite for football – a real football junkie – and Dustin exemplifies all those qualities.”
Johnston and Riley made their selections in person at the draft in Las Vegas and were not available for interviews Tuesday.
The draft featured an odd snake format giving San Antonio back-to-back picks at the end of the second and beginning of the third rounds. San Antonio selected former North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams in the second round and former Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside in the third round.
Both players spent time in the NFL, and Woodside was drafted by Cincinnati Bengals earlier this year before being cut on Sept. 1.
The Commanders used their final selection in the fourth round to choose former UTSA quarterback Dalton Sturm, who spent time with the Dallas Cowboys in the preseason this year.
While the draft proceeded, fans at the San Antonio draft party took selfies with the statue displaying the team’s new uniforms made by Starter. The Commanders will wear helmets made by Riddell that have the outline of the Alamo on the back.
Player numbers will be on one side of the helmet with the team logo featuring a shield and sword on the other. The AAF tried to incorporate San Antonio’s deep roots with the military in choosing the team’s look and name.
“The turnout is incredible, and the response we have got in the marketplace ever since we announced the team has been amazing,” Commanders President Vic Gregovits said. “Everything from when we launched our logo and team name to now – I mean, this is incredible.”
Gregovits said the league has secured sites and hotels for all eight teams to begin training camp here in January. He said the league has asked teams not to release tickets sales numbers, but Gregovits said sales have been good for the Commanders.
The Commanders will play their home games at the Alamodome, though a lease agreement has not been finalized between the league and the City.