By Dusty Sloan
As expected, there are plenty of new names coming into - and back to - the United Football League as 2011 training camp begins its second week from coast to coast.
The biggest splash on Thursday was made by the Omaha Nighthawks, who signed quarterback Troy Smith, the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner out of Ohio State. Smith started a career-high six games for the San Francisco 49ers in 2010, finishing the season with 1,176 yards and five touchdowns passing and 121 yards and a touchdown rushing. For the 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens (2007-09), Smith saw time in 20 games (eight starts), and has a career National Football League passer rating of 78.5.
The highest volume of player signings on Thursday came from the Virginia Destroyers, who added five players to the active roster - wide receivers Cortez Hankton and John Standeford, tackle Na’Shan Goddard, linebacker Neal Howey and defensive end Ervin Baldwin. Hankton caught 23 passes for 283 yards and two touchdowns for the Florida Tuskers last season, Standeford came to Florida late last year and had 71 yards from scrimmage on six touches in the 2010 UFL Championship Game, Goddard started at right tackle for Florida in the final six games of 2010, including the title game, Howey is a rookie out of Eastern Michigan and Baldwin played three games with the Indianapolis Colts in 2009.
The Sacramento Mountain Lions added fullback Charles Ali on Thursday. Ali originally was in the UFL with the New York Sentinels in 2009, and had the team’s lone rushing touchdown that season. He also played 28 games (four starts) over two seasons (2007-08) with the Cleveland Browns.
Quick hits: UFL Founder Bill Hambrecht, also the Las Vegas Locomotives’ owner, attended Locos practice for the second day in a row on Thursday… The Locos’ scrimmage tonight at 8 p.m. local time is to simulate the late-night games on the team’s schedule, as well as to beat the Nevada heat as much as possible. The game-like action will be the major evaluation tool for determining the Locos’ position battles… The Nighthawks are having a party for the release of the Bombshells’ 2011 calendar Wednesday at 8 p.m. local time at Twin Peaks (17330 West Center Road).
UFL youngster of the day: Nighthawks rookie running back Noel Devine is looking to make his mark in his first year of professional football after a standout collegiate career at West Virginia.
At 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds, the dynamic Devine put up some eye-popping numbers for the Mountaineers. He is West Virginia’s all-time leader in all-purpose yards with 5,763, and scored 31 touchdowns. As a running back, Devine racked up 4,317 yards and 29 touchdowns on the ground, and another 710 yards and two scores receiving.
Further reading: Here is today’s sampling of UFL-related stories from local markets:
“The call came, they expressed a deep amount of interest and I can do nothing but return the favor with my play on the field and my willingness to be a good teammate.” - Smith.
“The attitude here is different from the other places I’ve been. These guys expect to win. You can see that just by the way they carry themselves on the field. They know they’re winners. I hope I’ll be here. But to be honest, I don’t think too much about what will happen if I don’t make it here. I go like the wind, wherever it takes me.” - Locos linebacker Beau Bell.
“Everyone is working hard, and we’re now in full pads every morning. Final cutdown is coming, and we’ll have to get down to 50 players by then. Right now, we still have 70. So guys know what’s going on.” - Mountain Lions Head Coach/General Manager Dennis Green.