Week three in the AAF was defined by team wins. All four victorious teams were able to put in strong efforts across the board to pick up wins. From the emergence of the San Diego offense to the continued excellence of the Birmingham defense, different units propelled their teams to the win column.
This list isn’t about the best team performances though; it’s about the top individual performances in the AAF. All of the players in the top ten contributed to their team wins this week. Here are the ten best performances from week three of the AAF.
Andrew Ankrah, Orlando Apollos Linebacker
D’Ernest Johnson, Orlando Apollos Halfback
Mekale McKay, San Diego Commanders Wide Receiver
Matt Simms, Atlanta Legends Quarterback
Karter Schult, Salt Lake Stallions Defensive End
10. Josh Woodrum, Salt Lake Stallions Quarterback
22/31 passing, 178 yards, 1 TD, 1 2-PT
Salt Lake Stallions quarterback Josh Woodrum was an instrumental part in getting the team’s first win of the season. Woodrum, the former Liberty University signal-caller, bounced back from missing last week to help grind out a win over the undefeated Arizona Hotshots. While his stat line might not be eye-popping, Woodrum did what was needed to push the Stallions forward. The normally effective Salt Lake rushing attack was less of a force than weeks prior, but Woodrum still managed to help them get win number one.
9. Nelson Spruce, San Diego Fleet Wide Receiver
4 receptions, 50 yards, 2 TDs
Fleet wideout Nelson Spruce was the only receiver to pull down two touchdown grabs this week. Spruce was a favorite target of his namesake quarterback Philip Nelson, getting four catches on his seven targets. This makes two straight weeks for Spruce with four catches and 50+ yards. He has become more comfortable in the San Diego offense and will be a great compliment to the Fleet ground attack going forward.
8. Philip Nelson, San Diego Fleet Quarterback
17/25 passing, 193 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Spruce was able to be an effective wideout this week due to the ever-improving play of quarterback Philip Nelson. Despite not starting a professional game before week two, Nelson led the Fleet to their best offensive output of the year. Nelson improved from last week, throwing his first two touchdown passes and showing an ability to get good air under the ball. If Nelson can keep up his solid play, the Fleet offense could finally start to look like a Mike Martz coached offense should.
7. Jack Tocho, Birmingham Iron Free Safety
2 tackles, 1 pass defended, 1 interception
The Birmingham Iron are propped up by their defense, and free safety Jack Tocho is a major reason for their success on the back end. This week, Tocho had the defensive play of the week in AAF. Tocho made an incredible diving interception off of a tipped ball, adding to the Iron’s league-leading nine turnovers forced. Tocho also helped out against the Atlanta Legends run, and will likely continue to be a big part of an elite Iron secondary for the rest of the year.
Ervin Philips drop leads to a Jack Tocho pick pic.twitter.com/rPcgqiNW2y
— Arif Hasan (@ArifHasanNFL) February 24, 2019
6. Greer Martini, Salt Lake Stallions Linebacker
7 tackles, 2 pass deflections, 1 interception
The leading contender to Tocho’s title for best defensive play of the week was an interception by Salt Lake’s Greer Martini. The former Notre Dame player showed quick hands on a John Wolford pass to start the second half, returning it inside the 10-yard line and leading to a touchdown for the Stallions offense. Martini was working hard on every play, refusing to be shaken or stirred, and was the leading tackler in Salt Lake’s first-ever win.
Greer Martini picks John Wolford, aided by a Karter Schult hit pic.twitter.com/jZgOzs2NXE
— Arif Hasan (@ArifHasanNFL) February 23, 2019
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5. Trent Richardson, Birmingham Iron Halfback
17 carries, 46 yards, 3 TDs, 3 receptions, 4 yards, 1 2-PT
So far this season, it’s been hard to judge Trent Richardson’s performance. The former third overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft has all of the Iron touchdowns with six but also is only averaging 2.5 yards per carry. This week Richardson showed some more patience in letting holes develop in front of him. While his yards may not be impressive, three touchdowns in a game is always an impressive performance. Richardson is looking for a career renaissance in the AAF. If he can increase his yards per carry and show more vision, he could very well find another shot in the NFL next year.
4. Ja’Quan Gardner, San Diego Fleet Halfback
12 carries, 122 yards, 1 TD
Fleet running back Ja’Quan Gardner has now put up back-to-back 100-yard rushing games in the AAF. A huge chunk of yards came on an 83-yard burst for a touchdown in the Fleet’s 31-11 win over San Antonio. That touchdown scamper is the longest play in the AAF so far, and showed that Gardner has the ability to outrun defenders as well as run them over. NFL Network ran a comparison of Gardner to former Jacksonville Jaguars halfback and current AAF commentator Maurice Jones-Drew. It’s an apt comparison as both are short tackle-breakers with the ability to make defenders miss as well. Gardner has established himself as the number one guy in the San Diego backfield.
Ja'Quan Gardner with an 83-yard touchdown pic.twitter.com/L3me0LpiE2
— Arif Hasan (@ArifHasanNFL) February 25, 2019
3. De’Mornay Pierson-El, Salt Lake Stallions Wide Receiver
8 receptions, 90 yards, 1 TD
Another week, another breakout performance from an AAF wideout. This week, De’Mornay Pierson-El of the Stallions was an absolute weapon for quarterback Josh Woodrum. Pierson-El hauled in a 25 yard touchdown in the second quarter and caught four passes of over 10 yards. The most telling stat for Pierson-El was this: eight targets, eight catches. Every time Woodrum went to the well, Pierson-El was there with a grab.
2. Jamar Summers, Birmingham Iron Cornerback
3 tackles, 4 passes defended, 1 interception
Jamar Summers has established himself as one of the elite defensive players of the AAF. The Iron have one of the best defenses in the league, and Summers grades out as the best player on that unit according to Pro Football Focus. He had another standout game against the Atlanta Legends. Summers was a sure tackler in the secondary and defended a team-high four passes. His teammate Tocho had the more flashy interception, but Summers also recorded his second pick of the season. Summers is a corner that teams have to plan for each week, making him an asset to an elite Birmingham defense.
1. Garrett Gilbert, Orlando Apollos Quarterback
14/28 passing, 207 yards, 1 TD, 7 rushes, 43 yards, 1 TD
After two weeks occupying the number two spot, Garrett Gilbert has moved up to the pole position. Gilbert has led the Apollos to a 3-0 mark to start the season, and currently leads the AAF in passing with 827 yards. Gilbert threw one touchdown this week, but his most impressive play was using his legs. He ran for a 21 yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that ended up being the deciding score in Orlando’s 21-17 win over Memphis. The man even broke a tackle, which was as impressive as it was surprising. With Arizona Hotshot’s quarterback John Wolford going down this week, Gilbert has established himself as the number one gunslinger in the AAF.
And the award for Best QB Scramble for a TD goes to…Garrett Gilbert.
— Orlando Apollos (@aafAPOLLOS) February 25, 2019