LIONS ROSTER AHEAD OF SEASON OPENER
by Alex Husting
The Columbus Lions will return to the field once again in the fifth season of the NAL, the first under the brand new NAL Ironman rules. They start the season off with a familiar foe, the Jacksonville Sharks, coming to the Lions Den once again.
The Lions vs. Sharks is the rivalry that has defined the NAL in its first four seasons and it is fitting that the two teams will do battle to start the 2022 season.
The Lions Offense
For the 16th season in a row, Jason Gibson is once again at the helm for Columbus. He will run the offense, hoping to match the high powered passing attack from last season.
It will be a difficult task, with 2021 NAL MVP Mason Espinosa leaving, but the Lions recently signed Darren Daniel, a quarterback with ties to the area. Daniel attended Central High School, throwing for 2,858 yards and 18 touchdowns while rushing for 656 yards and nine touchdowns. Daniel later attended Alabama State.
“Darren is hungry for this opportunity and he will find a way to win. I look forward to this season's ups and downs and the opportunity to continue our winning ways,” Gibson said.
There will be an experienced offensive line protecting Daniel, led by former First Team All-NAL guard Jabari Buckley. Buckley and the rest of the offensive line will have their hands full in an offense that will have them in pass protection for the majority of the season.
With the new NAL Ironman rules, the Lions have Kerry Starks and Ken Washington listed as fullbacks along with their defensive positions at linebacker and defensive lineman. It will likely be a combo of those two as the coaching staff evaluates both players, but it is unlikely that either will have an impact in the running game.
The receiving corps is back with two big-time returning players in Romond Deloatch and Desmond Reece. Reece and Deloatch were key parts of one of the best passing offenses in the NAL last season and their experience will help Darren Daniel ease into the starting role. Jarmon Fortson, one of the most experienced players in the NAL is back in Columbus once again and will provide some veteran leadership on offense.
Additionally, the Lions have 6’7” Deandre Brown and speedster Darien Townsend filling out the roster, each bringing a unique skillset to the offense. Brown’s size gives him an easy advantage over most defensive backs that he will face and Townsend was an all-purpose yardage machine at Youngstown State.
The Lions Defense
On the defensive side, “Nighthawk” Damian Daniels has taken the reins, looking to instill a ballhawking defense led by the likes of Marvin Ross and others. The Lions’ defense was the best in the NAL last season and fans can expect more of the same with Daniels at the helm.
On the front, Bradon Thomas, the former offensive line coach for the Lions, has switched to the defensive line. Ulric Jones and Corey Crawford are not returning this season, but Brandon Thorpe and Dominick Davenport are leading the pack on the defensive line. Thorpe’s 6’5” frame will make him a factor on passing downs even when he cannot get to the quarterback.
Kendrick Washington wreaked havoc from a hybrid linebacker-defensive end position and is returning for the 2022 season.
The linebacking group has changed significantly since last season, with Patrick Macon joining the Lion’s den and Kerry Starks as well. Brandon Reed’s defense used linebackers in a number of blitz packages and Damien Daniels may utilize the group in that way.
Rodney Hall Jr. is returning in the defensive backfield, and the former Second Team All-NAL safety, along with Droell Greene, will be leading a new unit. With the NAL Ironman rules, a number of wide receivers will be serving as defensive backs and vice versa. That includes Kyle Griswould and Darien Townsend. The experience of Hall and Greene will be crucial as the team adjusts to the new rules
The season is two days away and the Lions will start with their arch-rivals the Jacksonville Sharks. They will play the Sharks three times in the 12 game season.
Tickets for the big time rivalry matchup and season opener are on sale here.
2022 NAL Season tickets for the Lions are also on sale here.
ABOUT THE COLUMBUS LIONS
The Columbus Lions are members of the National Arena League (NAL). Founded in 2007, the Columbus Lions are starting their 16th season in 2022. The Lions are a 3x league champion and 14 playoff appearances in their rich history. The Lions play their home games at Hughston Field in the Columbus Civic Center. Lions Season Ticket Memberships are on sale now call (706) 322-3336 or visit columbuslions.com. Follow the Lions on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Lionsfootball/, twitter @columbuslions and instagram.com/Columbuslions.
ABOUT NATIONAL ARENA LEAGUE
The National Arena League was founded in 2016 and hosted its inaugural season in 2017 as the premier league in arena football. The National Arena League will kick off its sixth season in 2022. For more information regarding expansion opportunities or partnerships, contact Commissioner Chris Siegfried at firstname.lastname@example.org For more information about the NAL visit www.nationalarenaleague.com, facebook.com/nationalarenaleauge, twitter.com/NALfootball, Instagram.com/nationalarenaleague.