By Jeremy Vega
Welcome all readers to another article in the 21 in 21 series. This will be your Baltimore Vultures preview where we look to breakdown all things Vultures from their first season in the SFL.
This will be the second franchise team in Baltimore for the SFL. Previously, Baltimore housed the Crabs, who were also owned by T8m Johnston (TJ). After Folding the Crabs and taking a year off, TJ and his new franchise, ‘the Vultures‘ are back, and are circling above.
The Vultures wasted no time building an Identity through their uniforms and quickly erecting a brand new stadium to play in. The stadium name is Vulture Field.
“Vultures come in several colors… there are red headed vultures, black vultures, grey vultures, white vultures, white vultures with red heads. We have them covered in our color schemes”, said TJ when asked if his uniforms have any inspiration behind them. Continuing with quick moves, in the short off-season, TJ has already put together a staff to help build and lead his organization. TJ will be Owner/Head coach. Garren Malone will be the team’1s General Manager and Shea Carroll will be the Lead Scout of the team.
I spoke with Garren about his first off-season as the GM as well as what he is most excited about this season.
“It was very busy, and stressful at times, but a whole lot of fun! Going in, we had an idea of which positions would go to veterans, and which positions we’d go after in the draft. Free agency was quick and hard-hitting! Interviewing free agents and hoping they had not made any commitments to other teams was nerve racking. Hoping they wouldn’t receive a better offer elsewhere after they had verbally committed to us was stressful as well. I also got to meet a lot of the new blood coming into the league and get to know them a bit. There was a lot of back and forth between TJ and I regarding which rookies would fit where in his blueprint. We went over multiple contingency plans in case we lost rookies in the draft and constantly updated our draft board. Draft night was a lot of fun! It was well-put together and at the end of the night, we had our guys! So that was really exciting to see all of our hard work in the offseason pay off. Now it’s time to see what we can accomplish on the field!”
“I’m excited to see us all perform together as a unit. All offseason was spent looking at puzzle pieces, so now that we’re looking at a complete picture, I’m ready to rock and roll!! I’m excited to see what our defense can accomplish this season with its mixture of fresh rookies and seasoned vets, and I’m also excited to see if the offense we put together turns out to be the well-oiled machine that I believe it will be. I’m mostly excited to see what we can do this season!”.
The Vultures built their Season 11 team through a nice mix of players. They signed six free agents, convincing some of the leagues top prospects to trust in a new team. Those players are, Malone, Desir, Carroll, Holder, Willis, Bolt. They added two returning vets & father son duo, quarterback, Mike Dazzo & linebacker, Joe Dazzo. Both were two of the first (group of 10) user players in the league during season 3.
They drafted three players with the franchise’s first ever draft picks. Finally, they filled their squad by signing an undrafted free agent. I got a chance to speak with their first round selection, who happens to have one of the biggest personalities in the league, Aman Takess. I asked him how it felt to be Baltimore’s first ever draft pick as well as what he hopes to accomplish in his Rookie year. His answer is exactly what you would expect. “The Great Aman is humbled that the prophecy has come true, now we need to complete the other half. The Great Aman hopes to take my team to the playoffs”
Very few words from the Great Aman who is already looking like a leader on the team, even as a rookie.
What can you expect to see the Vultures doing come game day? Well in a previous article, TJ stated his team will be balanced. Balanced on offense and a bend but don’t break defense. Expect to see a mature and calculated offense under the veteran, Mike Dazzo, who will be deadly accurate at short range and will be willing to loft the ball downfield to star wideout & big playmaker, Daly Holder. Defensively, you will see a strong front seven led by their linebacker duo, who could be the best duo in the league.
The Vultures will be competing in the Eastern Conference this season, where their biggest rival, the Carolina Skyhawks, reside as well. A battle of the Birds, It will be one of the leagues top rivalries this season as it has been gaining traction all off-season with all the light-hearted trash talk coming from both squads. They meet twice this season in weeks 1 & 13; Carolina hosting the first game and Baltimore hosting the second.
The Baltimore Vultures and Head coach TJ will be tested very early in the season. After their Week 1 opener, they will have to go up against the league’s heaviest hitters in the Indianapolis Red devils, Queen City Corsairs & Mexico City Aztecs, all of whom were playoff teams last season. Four games is a third of the season and with a tough opening act, if the Vultures stumble early, it could cost them their season campaign. I asked TJ what his expectations are for his first season back & if being an expansion team will ultimately give him an edge or make the road to a Season 11 title more difficult.
“It is difficult in this league to provide realistic expectations. I imagine all of us go into a season thinking we have a great team, but competition here is difficult and wins are tough to come by. I think we have the capability to be a very good team. We have playmakers on both sides of the ball and on special teams. We have a great mix of mature vets and dynamic rookies. I believe we have put together a playbook that will attempt to counter the strengths and exploit the weaknesses of the teams in the East. It was a challenge to map people and contracts to the original blueprint we laid out from day one; but that challenge applied to most teams. There was no advantage to being an expansion team – but I don’t think there was a huge disadvantage for us.”
In closing, The Baltimore Vultures are going to be a solid team this season if all goes to plan. With experienced leadership scattered from top to bottom in the organization, players, fans, & the league can expect the Vultures to compete manfully every single week. Most of all, the SFL can expect that whenever you look up, the Vultures will be circling above.