The San Antonio Commanders hit the practice field Saturday morning with two weeks left until the season opener.
The Commanders open Saturday, Feb. 9, at 7 p.m. against the San Diego Fleet at the Alamodome.
“It was pretty smooth as far as everybody just kind of getting assignments, getting plays called,” Commanders coach Mike Riley said.
The team’s sessions on Sunday and Monday are not open to the public.
“We’re still kind of in training camp mode,” Riley said. “We have a preseason game coming up which will be good for us. But we are really just still trying to do what we need to do for camp.”
Wide receiver Alonzo Moore, who played for Riley at Nebraska, took part in his first practice since being signed by the Commanders. The team had a roster spot open after offensive lineman Jared Machorro was waived (injured) on Thursday.
Mekale McKay spent the fall of 2018 without playing professional football. It was a long fall.
Now, as a member of the San Antonio Commanders, he is just over two weeks away from the Alliance of American Football (AAF) season opener on Feb. 9 at the Alamodome.
“Every morning I wake up and the days are counting down,” McKay said. “It’s very exciting. You can feel it in practice. Everything is coming together.”
The 6-foot-3, 204-pound receiver stands out in practice with his size and speed. In three seasons (2013-2015) at the University of Cincinnati, he caught 85 passes for 1,704 yards and 17 touchdowns. He played his freshman season in 2012 at Arkansas.
In addition to playing football, McKay was an honorable mention all-state basketball player his senior season in high school in Kentucky.
Although he had a reputation coming out of college for not having good hands, he has been a reliable pass catcher in the Commanders training camp.
McKay feels like he is making a good connection with the team’s quarterbacks.
“We’ve got quarterbacks who can throw it,” McKay said. “We’re making plays for them so I think we’re going to do a really good job.”
At just past the midpoint of training camp, McKay and his teammates got a change of scenery on Tuesday when they held a joint practice with the Atlanta Legends. It was a way for the Commanders to measure themselves with very little time left before the season starts.
“We’re almost there. We’ve got a lot of improving to do,” McKay said. “That was a good scale to see where we were against somebody else but we’re still focused on us. We’re focused on winning and getting the job done here.”
The San Antonio Commanders have been practicing six days a week since Saturday, Jan. 5.
Tuesday’s practice was the first time they faced players from another team. The Commanders and Atlanta Legends held a joint workout at Farris Stadium.
“It’s good to go against someone other than your own team finally,” Commanders defensive lineman Matt Godin said. “It’s a long camp so far. I think definitely both teams got better today. You learn stuff and it definitely helps to improve your technique and everything.”
The energy level went up a notch as players from both sides performed like they had something to prove. Late in the practice things got out of hand and the team-vs.-team portion was cut short.
“It was good energy. It’s one of those things that happens,” Commanders coach Mike Riley said. “You don’t like some of it but do like some of it. We actually got through the majority of what we wanted to do.
“One thing I know is good is when you set up a deal like this it starts getting them back into it. Some of them haven’t been in games for a while. It gets them back into that feeling of what it feels like to compete against somebody else instead of just practicing against yourself. There is actually some nerves involved. So it’s just good practice for getting ready to play a game.”
Godin seemed neither surprised nor worried that that things got intense between the Commanders and Legends.
“We thought that might happen,” Godin said. “You get late into camp and things like that happen. Tempers fly. Two teams just trying to compete. That’s what happened.”
The San Antonio Commanders had their first face-to-face look at another AAF team on Tuesday.
The Commanders and Atlanta Legends shared a practice at Farris Stadium.
The workout was energetic on both sides. The part of the practice where the teams scrimmaged against each other ended early after some fisticuffs.
Training camp report: Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019
The Commanders were in pads and there was plenty of contact in practice.
The temperature was about 60 degrees and breezy at 10 a.m. It warmed up by the time things wrapped up a little after noon.
Two roster changes
The Commanders waived running back Henry Poggi
The Commanders added linebacker Tyrone Holmes.
Here is what the Commanders’ daily report says about Tyrone Holmes
Drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars 181st overall in 2016 NFL Draft … played in 15 career NFL games with the Cleveland Browns between 2016 and 2017, totaling nine total tackles and 1.0 sack … signed to Los Angeles Chargers’ practice squad in December 2018… totaled 212 tackles (72 solo, 142 assisted) in four seasons at the University of Montana … had 34.5 sacks and a school-record 49.5 tackles for loss … named the 2015 STATS FCS Defensive Player of the Year and named to four separate All-American teams as a senior.
The tight ends are football’s big men who can block, run and catch passes.
The San Antonio Commanders have plenty of size among their tight ends – going all the way up to Cam Clear from Texas A&M, who was listed at 308 pounds at minicamp. Clear is reported to be down to about 278.
The other tight ends on the training camp roster are Cole Hunt from TCU, Jevoni Robinson from North Carolina State, Evan Rodriguez from Temple and Stehly Reden from Texas A&M-Kingsville.
Henry Poggi, who is listed as a fullback from Michigan, also spends time as a tight end.
Robinson was limited in practice on Monday.
Editor’s note: Updated to more accurately reflect Cam Clear’s current weight.
Oscar White knows what it feels like to be overlooked.
After playing high school football in River Falls, Wisconsin, he didn’t have any colleges offering him scholarships.
He landed at Division III Dubuque in Iowa. His senior year in 2015 he earned all-conference honors and Dubuque won the conference title.
Here’s is White’s story:
“Actually coming out of high school, I didn’t have any recruits, I didn’t have any offers to any school. I set my journey out to go to school at the the University of Whitewater (Wisconsin). I went and talked to their head coach. He wouldn’t let me play.
“So I ended up taking a trip down to Iowa, to the University of Dubuque. I just went down there and visited with a friend of mine who went on a school visit. The coach asked me if I was an athlete. He told me if I enrolled in the school, I could be on the team.
“I knew I wanted to play football. I didn’t know where at. I didn’t have an option. The coach gave me that option to enroll and play there. It turned out to be a good decision for me. I was a three-year starter there.”
Move ahead four years and the story repeats. No pro teams came calling. White stayed in shape, but there were no opportunities until…
The fledgling Alliance of American Football (AAF) came along in the fall of 2018 and had some open combines where players could put their talents on display. White performed well enough at the combine that he was signed by the San Antonio Commanders before mini-camp.
Now the 6-foot, 199-pound cornerback is in the third week of training camp in San Antonio. The AAF season opener is about three weeks away and the former Dubuque Spartan has a shot at making the Commanders’ regular-season roster.
White got a taste of bigger-time football on Saturday when the Commanders practiced at the 65,000-seat Alamodome. White said his home stadium in college sat about 2,300.
“Coming from a D-III school, that’s actually the biggest place I’ve even been inside to practice,” White said. “That is going is to be a great experience and that was very cool to be in for a practice.”