‘Carpe diem': There’s no looking to possibilities ahead for Salt Lake Stallions players midseason, even as NFL free agency opens
SALT LAKE CITY — One of the constantly updating bits of information filling ESPN’s ticker this week is the latest moves by NFL teams signing free agents as the league's new season kicks off.
The Alliance of American Football, which is halfway through its 10-week inaugural season, touts itself as a league designed to help develop players and give them a shot in the NFL. For players around the Alliance, including those with the Salt Lake Stallions, the recent news may serve as a temptation to assess how they are improving their stock for another, or perhaps even a first, chance in the NFL.
Not so, said several Stallions defenders. The focus remains on competing in the AAF and making a push to improve in Salt Lake's debut season as the Stallions try to improve on a 1-4 mark.
"I try to seize the day — carpe diem," said Salt Lake linebacker Gionni Paul, a former University of Utah standout who had brief stints with a pair of NFL teams during the 2016 offseason. "You tackle each day, don’t get too far ahead. Opportunity comes when you tackle each day, step by step. Eventually, if my opportunity comes, it comes."
Fellow linebacker Greer Martini, a Notre Dame product who spent time with the Green Bay Packers last season before being cut prior to the regular season, said the focus right now is on preparing each week. Up next for Martini and the Stallions is a home game against the Memphis Express on Saturday at 2 p.m. MT at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
"Obviously as a player, that’s your goal and that’s what you set, something to attain. But during the season, all you can focus on is the preparation for that week. Right now, my mind isn’t on whether I can get back in the NFL. It’s how can I make myself the best player for this week," he said.
Former Utah State cornerback Will Davis, a former third-round NFL draft pick who's spent parts of five different seasons in the league, says there is excitement in what's happened already in the AAF while staying tuned in on finishing out the Stallions season strong. Last week, he intercepted his first pass, coming up with a red-zone pick that ended a San Diego scoring threat.
"At the halfway point, I’m doing good, especially since I got to the halfway point on the highest note (with the interception). So now it’s just about keep going up," he said. "At the end of the day, it’s how you finish and right now I’m in a good position and I feel confident. There’s things you want more obviously, but right now I’m content, coming off the last game and going into the back half of the season. It’s a great situation, and I’m excited for it."
ONCE AN AGGIE, ALWAYS AN AGGIE: Davis has kept track on the success the Utah State men's basketball team is having this season, as the Aggies are in strong position to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011.
"I’m excited Utah State doing their thing. Obviously that win over Nevada was huge. Anyone who was an Aggie definitely was aware of what happened that night. I’m excited for them," he said. "Being at the top of your game at the end of the season is where you want to be. They’re in a great position, they’re hot, they’re killing it and you can’t ask for anything much better. Just go out there and keep winning."
Salt Lake City is one of the regional sites for the first two rounds in this year's NCAA Tournament, and in recent weeks USU has been projected by some national bracketologists to play close to home in Vivint Arena. Davis is all-in with that idea.
"No question, I’m going. Of course, c’mon man. Yeah, if I’m in town, I’m there no question," he said of the possibility of the Aggies playing in Salt Lake City.
PLAYER MOVES: A pair of former Utes on the Stallions roster were moved to injured reserve this week — wide receiver Kaelin Clay and running back Matt Asiata. They join another former Ute, wide receiver Dres Anderson, who went on IR earlier this season.
In other moves this week, Salt Lake has signed wide receiver Brandon Shippen (Temple), running back Terron Ward (Oregon State), linebacker John Timu (Washington) and running back Terry Swanson (Toledo).