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Birmingham readies for first professional football game in 18 years

 


At a time when much of the country is going through football withdrawal, Birmingham will be getting its fix with the latest iteration of a professional football team in the Magic City when the Birmingham Iron play its inaugural game Sunday, 3 p.m. at Legion Field. [More stories about Birmingham Iron]

The Iron are one of eight teams in the Alliance of American Football, an upstart professional football league with nationally televised games that kick off Sunday. The Birmingham franchise has first dibs to sign players who attended Alabama colleges, which gives the Iron a heavy dose of local flair, including former Alabama running back Trent Richardson and quarterback Blake Sims and Auburn wide receiver Quan Bray.

A city burned by football remains hopelessly hopeful

“Historically, this time of the year the Super Bowl is over and 150 million professional football fans go into a deep state of depression for five months,” Iron President Tom Ward told the Birmingham City Council on Tuesday. “Well, football is not ending, it’s just beginning in Birmingham and in [four] days we’ll play our first home game at the legendary Legion Field. We’re proud to represent Birmingham and this city council and the city at large.”

Ward said the team will not only represent Birmingham on the field, but also be involved in community work. This month, the Iron launched the Iron Kids Program, a youth health and fitness initiative in Birmingham City Schools. Every student who completes the initiative will receive tickets to an Iron game in March.

Joe Pendry, the team’s general manager, echoed that sentiment.

“We’re going put a product out there this Sunday that will enhance this community. That is a promise,” he said. “We will be a professional football team, and we’ll not only do it through the television rights, our players will be a part of the community. We’ll be a part of it, we won’t just be a showcase for it.”

Mayor Randall Woodfin issued a proclamation declaring Friday “Black Friday,” where city residents and employees are encouraged to show support for the team by wearing black. The Iron’s first game is also a blackout game where fans are expected to wear black.

“Iron is one of three elements needed to make steel and make no mistake: This team is all about chemistry, both on the field and in the community,” the proclamation reads in part.

Birmingham Iron sets roster for inaugural season

Also Tuesday, the council approved up to $200,000 per season in in-kind contributions for police, fire and EMS services for Iron home games.

Sunday’s game at Legion field between the Iron and the Memphis Express will be the first professional football game in Birmingham since the XFL’s Birmingham Thunderbolts in 2001. The XFL folded after its inaugural season that year because of low public interest.



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