Many football fans are not aware that on Saturdays across the state, former players from their communities are taking to the gridiron in semi-pro football action — where greats from Walker County join former players from Division I and II college football to clash on the field reminiscent of the game enjoyed in towns and cities on Friday nights in the fall.
One of those teams, the West Jefferson Devil Dawgs of the Alabama Spring Football League (ASFL), has found success not only in terms of their 5-0-1 record this season, but also in their attempts to bring a family-oriented and community-based brand of spring football to Walker and Western Jefferson County.
They are accomplishing these goals with a group of seven players from the Walker County area — whose contributions both on and off the field have become a cornerstone for Jesse Reed, team owner/coach and player.
“Our team is comprised of a great group of guys, who work hard and have great character,” Reed said. “Our Walker County players are no exception. Each one of them spring a very special quality to the Devil Dawgs and we’re very proud to have them on board with us.”
Six of the Devil Dawgs are former standouts as Dora Bulldogs — RB Marquis Chapel, DE/OG Derrek Griffin, OG Bradley Isbell, WR Brennen Nash, QB D.J. Smith and OG/DE Britt Sullivan. The Cordova Blue Devils also have a representative in OL/DL Joey Williams.
Smith, who has also played with the Birmingham Steeldogs in the Arena Football League, has been described by Reed as a “solid leader” who performs at a very high level, both at practice and on game days.
Chapel and Williams have also played vital roles on offense and defense for the team — with Chapel averaging 5.1 yards a carry at the running back position.
Williams has been a force on defense this season, amassing 7.5 quarterback sacks.
“I wish I had an entire team of Marquis Chapels — he’s so ‘team first’ in his demeanor that I could put him at fullback and only have him block, and if we won that game by only three points, he would be absolutely ecstatic. When you combine that with his great talent, you have a very special player,” Reed said. “Joey’s been with us for a long time and when he switched from playing center to defensive line, it really took off for both him and us. He’s immensely strong and gifted.”
Alongside the Walker County representatives on the Devil Dawgs’ roster, the team also enjoys contributions from former NCAA college football players — including four who participated at the Division I level. RB Aaron Johns and WR Joshua Butler played at the University of Alabama, DB Walter Hampton played at UAB and DB Andre Jones was a standout at the University of Nebraska.
For Reed and the members of the Devil Dawgs, much of the joy of the game they play in the spring comes from seeing members of their community come out to support their team, as well as the interaction they have with their fans.
“There’s a special feeling on Saturdays when you look up in the stands and see families having a great time and talking to the players after the game,” Reed said. “It’s just like a Friday night high school football game as we are representing our communities just like teams from Dora, Cordova, Corner, Walker or Curry represent theirs.”
The Devil Dawgs will host the undefeated Bessemer Cobras on Saturday at West Jefferson High School at 6 p.m. Admission is $6.