The National Football League formally wrapped up its 2018-19 season with Sunday’s Super Bowl title game won 13-3 by the AFC champion New England Patriots over the NFC champion Los Angeles Rams.
Of note, Mount Miguel High School alumnus Cory Littleton, who signed as an undrafted free agent with the Rams in 2016 following a college career at the University of Washington, made an interception on New England quarterback Tom Brady’s first pass.
Littleton, who was voted the 2019 Pro Bowl as a special teams starter, finished Sunday’s game with 10 tackles. As a starting linebacker, Littleton recorded seven tackles in a 30-22 playoff victory against the Dallas Cowboys and 12 tackles in a 26-23 overtime victory against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC championship game.
Sunday’s game, which attracted a total audience of 100.7 million on multiple viewing platforms, according to CBS Sports, capped a run of 256 regular season and 11 playoff games that began with training camps in July, which, in turn, was preceded by rookie mini-camps and April’s 2018 NFL Draft.
So the question begs, are you ready for more football?
San Diego’s two newest pro football franchises are set to kick off their inaugural seasons in the shadow of Super Bowl LIII.
The San Diego Fleet of the start-up Alliance of American Football is scheduled to kick off its 10-game regular season this Saturday, Feb. 9, at the Alamodome against the host San Antonio Commanders. The game will be telecast live by CBS.
The Fleet, a charter member of the eight-team league, will play its home games at SDCCU Stadium, starting Feb. 16 against the Atlanta Legends.
The Fleet will share the cavernous 71,000-seat Mission Valley facility, the former home of the San Diego Chargers before they departed to Los Angeles in 2017, with San Diego State University’s football team and the SDCCU Holiday Bowl game.
Former NFL head coach Mike Martz (who won a Super Bowl championship in 2000 as the offensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams) will serve as the Fleet’s inaugural head coach. Former San Diego Chargers coach Mike Riley will coach the Commanders.
The San Diego franchise selected University of San Diego alum Josh Johnson (2004-7) as the overall first pick in the league’s quarterback draft in November.
However, Johnson signed as a back-up with the NFL Washington Redskins in December following season-ending injuries to signal-callers Colt McCoy and Alex Smith.
Johnson, who threw for 9,699 yards and 19 touchdowns during four years with the Toreros, started three of four games for the Redskins, winning one while posting a 69.4 quarterback rating.
The Fleet held its training camp, along with the rest of the league, in San Antonio starting Jan. 4, and finalized its 52-player roster on Jan. 30.
Local connections include seven former SDSU players: tight end Gavin Escobar, offensive tackles Daniel Brunskill and Terry Poole, offensive guard Darrell Greene, defensive end Alex Barrett, linebacker Eric Pinkins and wide receiver Kameron Kelly.
Escobar has spent time with five NFL teams since being taken in the second round of the 2013 draft by the Dallas Cowboys.
Pinkins was drafted in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL draft by the Seattle Seahawks.
Former Otay Ranch High School and Southwestern College quarterback Luis Perez, who led Texas A&M-Commerce to the 2017 NCAA Division II championship, will lead the Birmingham Iron into SDCCU Stadium on March 17.
The Fleet is joined by the equally new San Diego Strike Force, which also is playing off the region’s rich military heritage.
The arena football team will make its debut under head coach Burt Grossman, a former Chargers fan favorite and local youth sports advocate, in its Indoor Football League season opener at the Quad City Steamwheelers on Feb. 22.
The Strike Force will host the Tucson Sugar Skulls in its home opener March 3 at Pechanga Arena San Diego.
Grossman, who has dedicated his life to community service and youth sports advocacy since retiring from the NFL in 1996, is understandably excited about the new career opportunity.
“I know that there are a lot of football fans in San Diego who are hungry to embrace a team they can call their own and be proud of, and we’re going to do everything we can on the field and in the community to give them just that,” Grossman said.
The Strike Force, which will play 14 regular season games through June 15, will be the third arena football league team to call San Diego home.
The San Diego Riptide played at the arena from 2002-05 in af2; the San Diego Shockwave played its lone season in 2007 at SDSU’s Viejas Arena as a member of the National Indoor Football League, which folded in 2008.
The Shockwave finished its lone season with a 10-1 record, attracting crowds from a low of 2,379 to a high of 4,952 at Viejas Arena.
The Indoor Football League, which has been in continuous operation since 2008, is fielding 10 teams during the 2019 season
The Iowa Barnstormers are the defending IFL champion.
The Patriots’ Brady further etched his name in the NFL history book by winning his sixth Super Bowl championship in nine trips to the NFL title game.
Sunday’s appearance marked Brady’s ninth trip to the NFL championship game – his fourth in the last five years. In his illustrious 19-year career, he has collected four Super Bowl MVP awards and is the league’s all-time career leader in passing yards and touchdowns passes.
He is the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl at 41.
The Super Bowl championship was the eighth overall for New England head coach Bill Belichick, including two as a defensive coordinator with the New York Giants and six alongside Brady with the Patriots.
The Patriots have now tied the Pittsburgh Steelers for most Super Bowl victories with six.
New England wide receiver Julian Edelman, who caught 10 passes for 141 yards, earned honors as the 2019 Super Bowl MVP. Pats rookie running back Sony Michel scored the only touchdown of the game midway through the fourth quarter to break a 3-3 standoff between the teams on the scoreboard.