SEC to the Shock: 11 players from college football’s power conference look to boost Spokane’s reborn IFL team
November 18, 2020 11:12 pm
The SEC isn’t an abbreviation for Shock Extending Careers, but that’s what Spokane’s reborn Indoor Football League team is doing.
Eleven players collegiately groomed in the SEC – the tradition-rich Southeastern Conference – get to keep playing.
Many had a wandering path to the Lilac City and the indoor brand of football, with detours from the NFL and Canadian Football League chopping blocks or other professional leagues that fizzled.
These were some of the nation’s top high school recruits who played in the most raucous atmospheres in college football.
Quarterback Blake Sims, linebacker Xzavier Dickson and offensive lineman Leon Brown all started for Nick Saban at Alabama in 2014, reaching the college football semifinal.
Dickson, a seventh-round draft pick by the New England Patriots, faced several of his new teammates in college.
“I think it’s cool that we have a lot of SEC dudes,” Dickson said. “We’re going to be a hard-nosed team.”
Former Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson started in two Iron Bowl games against Alabama in 2015 and 2016, arguably college football’s foremost rivalry.
“Taking snaps at a SEC school is pretty unique. Hard to do,” Johnson said. There’s great talent there.
“I am glad to have the opportunity to keep playing with a lot of other SEC guys. But just because we went to a bigger school doesn’t mean we’re better. At this level, it’s who wants it most.”
Shock defensive back and ex-Georgia mainstay Dominick Sanders is nearly three years removed from facing Alabama in the national title game.
Speedy Noil was the five-star recruit before signing with Texas A&M – Spokane Shock owner Sam Adams’ alma mater – in 2014.
Noil, a receiver, was given Johnny Manziel’s No. 2 jersey number at Texas A&M his freshman year, just months after Manziel, a Heisman trophy winner, was drafted.
After failing to make the Seahawks and Green Bay Packers rosters, Noil is determined to learn indoor football.
“I’m ready to take it step by step, learn my playbook,” Noil said. “I want to help the Shock win another championship.
“Having the SEC guys gives a high-quality team on a high-quality platform.”
After playing under Saban in college and shortly for Bill Belichick in New England, Dickson joked that he is looking to playing for a “more relaxed” Shock coach Billy Back.
“It’s a winning organization,” Dickson said. “I’m ready”
The Shock open their 2021 season April 2 on the road against the Frisco (Texas) Fighters.
Blake Sims, quarterback (Alabama): Sims set a Alabama single-season passing record as a senior in 2014 when he totaled 3,487 yards with 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions for the Crimson Tide, which reached national semifinal. He had short stints in the NFL and CFL before joining the Shock.
Xzavier Dickson, linebacker (Alabama): Dickson totaled 42 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss and nine sacks as a senior Alabama in 2014, helping his team reach the national semifinal. He was drafted by the New England Patriots in the seventh round.
Leon Brown, offensive lineman (Alabama): Brown started up front for Alabama 2014 with Sims and Dickson and had two stints with the Baltimore Ravens.
Jeremy Johnson, quarterback (Auburn): Johnson passed for 2,224 career yards, 20 touchdowns and 11 interceptions for the Tigers, exhausting his eligibility after the 2016 season. He also rushed for nine touchdowns. Johnson had a tryout with the New Giants and a short stint in the CFL
Speedy Noil, receiver (Texas A&M): Noil, once among the nation’s top high school recruits, totaled 88 catches for 1,134 yards and nine touchdowns in three seasons for the Aggies. He went undrafted in 2017 after declaring early, but was invited to Packers and Seahawks camps.
Dominick Sanders, defensive back (Georgia): Sanders started 54 games at Georgia and had 16 career interceptions. As a senior in 2017, when the Bulldogs reached the national title game, he totaled 37 tackles. He went undrafted but had brief stays with the Eagles and Cowboys.
Serderius Bryant, linebacker (Ole Miss): Bryant was a tackling machine for the Rebels, totaling 232 career tackles, including 26 for a loss. He went undrafted in 2015 before playing in the CFL.
Cory Johnson, defensive line (Kentucky): Johnson totaled 77 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss and 4 1/2 sacks for the Wildcats before going undrafted in 2016. He he was cut by the Falcons before playing two seasons with the Toronto Argonauts.
Tyler Byrd, receiver (Tennessee): Byrd had a reserve role with the Volunteers, finishing his career with 691 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. He was a senior in 2019.
Jonah Austin, offensive line (LSU): Austin appeared in 12 games with the Tigers before playing his senior season at Nicholls State in 2015. He played for the defunct Spokane Empire as a rookie in 2016.
Shattle Fenteng, defensive back (Georgia): Fenteng was a junior college star who went to play at Georgia in 2015, but appeared to be plagued by injuries.