-Isaac Simpson @Isaac_Rivals
We are all excited here in Memphis for the inaugural season of the AAF and the Memphis Express. Football is deeply ingrained in the fabric of this city from the high school ranks, to the University of Memphis and various NFL teams Memphians may follow but now there is a new game in town! We are on the brink of professional football right here in our own backyard. New information is trickling in by the day and one bit of news I’m excited about are the coaching staff announcements. So far this is one of the deepest staffs in the AAF bringing not only sideline experience but guys who have played the game themselves at a high level.
HEAD COACH: Mike Singletary
Coach Singletary is about as decorated as it gets. He played his collegiate football at Baylor University before being drafted in the 2nd round of the ‘81 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. He went on to have a hall of fame career playing 12yrs (all with the Chicago Bears) before retiring in ‘92 as one of the greatest linebackers to ever grace the uniform. He was enshrined in the college football hall of fame in ‘95 and the pro football hall of fame in ‘98.
He started his coaching career with the Baltimore Ravens where he served as linebackers coach for 2 years (2003-2004). He then spent the next 6 years with the San Francisco 49ers where he served as linebackers coach, assistant head coach and interim head coach before taking the job permanently in 2009 holding the position for two seasons. He then spent 3 seasons (2011-2013) as the linebackers coach for the Minnesota Vikings and one season (2016) as a defensive assistant for the LA Rams.
He will now be the head man for your Memphis Express bringing an unquantifiable wealth of knowledge from his hall of fame playing career to his experience on the sideline. He will bring a tough hard-nosed disciplined culture to this team that will go a long way in helping these guys create success on and off the gridiron.
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Dennis Thurman
Coach Thurman comes to the Express highly decorated as well. He played his collegiate football at USC where he was an all-American safety and member of the Trojans ‘74 national championship team. He was drafted in the 11th round of the ‘78 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys where he played 8 seasons before playing his final season with the St. Louis Cardinals on ‘86.
He began his well-traveled coaching career with the Phoenix Cardinals where he spent 2 seasons (1988-1989) as the defensive backs coach. He spent one season (1992) as the defensive coordinator for the Ohio Glory of the WLAF (later named NFL Europe) before returning to his alma mater USC for an 8-year stint (1993-2000) as defensive backs coach. He returned to the NFL in ‘02 where he served as the Baltimore Ravens defensive backs coach until ‘07. He followed that up with a 7-year stint (2008-2014) with the New York Jets serving as the defensive backs coach and eventually defensive coordinator and lastly a 2-year run (2015-2016) as the defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills. Similar to Mike Singletary he brings a wealth of knowledge from his playing days and well-traveled career as a defensive assistant and coordinator. I think Thurman is an extremely great fit for Singletary’s staff as they both bring a similar vision to the game of football and should work together swimmingly.
LINEBACKERS COACH: Tom Mason
Keeping with the theme of this staff Tom comes to the Express highly decorated and well traveled. He played his collegiate football at the University of Nevada (1977-1978) before jumping immediately into the college football coaching ranks as he served as the defensive coordinator for 3 yrs (1978-1980) at Walla Walla CC, 5 yrs (1981-1985) as linebackers coach at Eastern Washington, 7 yrs (1986-1992) as defensive coordinator at Portland State, 4 yrs (1993-1996) as defensive coordinator as well as interim head coach at Boise St. and 1 yr (1997) as defensive coordinator at Northern Iowa.
He then returned to his alma later Nevada where he served as the defensive backs coach in ‘98 and the defensive coordinator in ‘99. He followed that up with one season (2000) as the defensive backs coach of the Scottish Claymores of the WLAF and also served as the wide receivers coach of the CFLs BC Lions that same year. In ‘01 he served as the LBs coach of the XFL’s Las Vegas Outlaws before 7 yrs (2001-2007) as linebackers coach at Fresno St. He spent the next 7 years at SMU serving as the defensive coordinator before taking over as interim head coach midway through the 2014 season. He then headed to Hawaii for 1 season (2015) serving as the ILB coach/defensive coordinator before serving the last 3 yrs as the linebackers/defensive coordinator at UTEP. As you can see, Coach Mason’s resume has taken him all across the country and even abroad from junior college to Div. 1 to the WLAF, CFL and XFL He’s pretty much seen it all and will be an invaluable asset to Mike Singletary’s staff with his extensive knowledge of the defensive side of the game of football.
DEFENSIVE LINE COACH: Matt Singletary
Matt Singletary is the son of head coach Mike Singletary. At age 30 he is the youngest member of this staff. He followed on his father’s footsteps playing 3 yrs at Baylor as a defensive end before transferring and playing one year at Cal-Poly. After college Matt pursued an acting career making several appearances on television shows as well as the silver screen. This will be his first venture into the world of coaching but being the son of a hall of famer and playing the game himself up to the collegiate level he knows the game of football and it never hurts for a head coach to have a guy that he can really trust on his staff. The father/son relationship definitely fits that bill.
QUARTERBACKS COACH: David Lee
As is pretty much the theme with this staff Coach David Lee is well traveled and highly experienced. He played collegiately at Vanderbilt University from (1971-1975) as the teams starting quarterback and was named the Commodores MVP in ‘74. He started his coaching career at UT-Martin where he spent two seasons (1975-1976) ad the quarterbacks and receivers coach. He then spent 1 yr (1977) at Vanderbilt as the quarterbacks coach, 5 yrs (1978-1982) at Ole Miss in the same position, 1 yr (1983) at New Mexico as the offensive coordinator, 5 yrs (1984-1988) at Arkansas where he coached the quarterbacks and fullbacks and spent the final year as offensive coordinator, 5 yrs (1989-1993) as the head coach of the UTEP Miners and 7 yrs (1994-2000) as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Rice.
He then returned to Arkansas for 2 yrs (2001-2002) as the quarterbacks coach before venturing into the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys spending 4 yrs (2003-2006) as the offensive quality control coach. He returned to Arkansas for a third stint spending 1 yr (2007) as the offensive coordinator, 3 yrs (2008-2010) with the Miami Dolphins as offensive coordinator, 1 yr (2011) at Ole Miss as the offensive coordinator before returning to the NFL for good all in the quarterbacks coach position (2012) with the Buffalo Bills, (2013-2014) with the New York Jets, (2015-2016) for a second stint with the Buffalo Bills and most recently (2017) with the Cleveland Browns. One thing that stands out among Lee’s extensive resume is his 5 yr run as head coach of the UTEP Miners. Being able to get a guy who’s been a head coach before as an assistant gives coach Singletary another guy who knows how to run a team and a guy who’s done it which can’t be replicated. With all his stops coaching NFL quarterbacks I think it’s safe to say the guys under center for the Express will be in great hands under his tutelage.
RUNNING BACKS/SPECIAL TEAMS COACH: Ty Knott
Not only does Coach Knott bring coaching experience he also has front office experience as an NFL executive. He worked alongside Mike Singletary with the San Francisco 49ers as director of player development from (2009-2010). He played collegiately as a defensive back at Oregon Tech. He brings versatility to the staff as his announced role with the Express attests, he has experience coaching the offensive and defensive side of the football.
He started his coaching career at his alma later Oregon Tech where he spent 2 yrs (1988-1989) as the defensive backs coach. He would serve in the same role at his next 4 stops Whittier College (1994-1995), IUP (1997-1999), Mt. San Antonio (2000) and Greenville College (2001) . He would then venture into the NFL ranks with the Jacksonville Jaguars as an offensive assistant in (2002), defensive quality control coach with the New Orleans Saints (2003-2005) and offensive quality control coach Green Bay Packers (2006-2008). He would then return to the college coaching ranks spending 1 yr as the defensive coordinator at Texas Southern and most recently (2012) holding that same position at Minnesota-Crookston. Never hurts to get the opportunity to work with someone you’ve already built chemistry with making this a great hire and seamless addition to this staff.
All in all, I think what stands out the most among the announced staff members is experience and prior chemistry. Coach Singletary has brought in old-school football guys and also guys that he has prior relationships with which I think will allow them to hit the ground running immediately possibly giving them a leg up on the competition.