by Alex Husting

Days away from the season opener against the Jacksonville Sharks, head coach Jason Gibson and the rest of the staff have made four key signings. The Lions have brought in Darren Daniel, a quarterback from Alabama State University; Ryan Gates, kicker from last season; Brandon Thorpe, a defensive lineman from Texas Tech; and Patrick Macon, a linebacker from USF and the Albany Empire. 

Darren Daniel attended Central High School, throwing for 2,858 yards and 18 touchdowns while rushing for 656 yards and nine touchdowns. Daniel later attended Stanford before transferring to Alabama State. 

Craig Peterson, the former First Team All-NAL kicker from Albany has left Columbus, so the Lions are bringing back Ryan Gates to handle kicking duties. He joined the team after Jed Solomon struggled to start the season, but injuries cut his season short. 

Despite the new NAL Ironman rules, teams are allowed to designate one player as special teams-only and Gates is likely to play that role. 

The Lions’ defense last year was the most dominant in the NAL, with a punishing defensive front that sacked opposing quarterbacks more than any team in the league. Columbus has added to that front by signing Brandon Thorpe. Thorpe last signed with the Southwest Kansas Storm, a new team in Champions Indoor Football.

Thorpe graduated from Virginia Union in 2018 after one season at the university. In one year with the Panthers, Thorpe wracked up 19 total tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. 

He came to Virginia Union after transferring from Texas Tech. In one season with the Red Raiders, the defensive lineman from Tucker High School appeared in six games, finishing the year with four tackles.

Thorpe went to junior college before his time in Lubbock, attending Highland Community College in Highland, Kansas. As a sophomore, Thorpe had a big impact, registering 31 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, five forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

    Also on the defensive side, the Lions have signed former Albany Empire linebacker Patrick Macon. In the “Mac” linebacker position last year, Macon was a huge part of the Empire defense that started to dominate teams in the second half of the season. Macon earned NAL Defensive Player of the Week honors and was a First Team All-NAL Defense selection. 

He was unable to capture the NAL Defensive Player of the Year, but was able to capture a championship ring with Albany. 

Before Albany, Macon attended the University of South Florida as a graduate student. It was Macon’s third team in four years, after heading to Tampa as a grad transfer from Oklahoma State.

The linebacker spent two seasons in Stillwater with the Cowboys, but after redshirting before his first season and injuring his foot just before the second season, he never saw the field.

Macon was a highly touted recruit to OSU, coming from Arizona Western Community College. At Arizona Western, Macon was a force to be reckoned with in two seasons on the Matadors. 

As sophomore, he was named the National Junior College Athletic Association(NJCAA) Defensive Player of the Year and earned Western States Football League Co-Defensive Player of the Year and First-Team All-Conference honors after leading the Matadors to an 11-1 record in 2016 and an appearance in the national championship game. He finished the season with 122 tackles(fourth in the country), 27.5 tackles for loss(first), nine sacks and nine forced fumbles(first). 

This brilliant sophomore campaign followed a solid freshman season for Macon. He recorded 82 tackles and four sacks during the 2015 season. 

All four signings come at a crucial time for Columbus, with the season opener against Jacksonville on the horizon. Tickets for the big time rivalry matchup are on sale here.

2022 NAL Season tickets for the Lions are also on sale here.


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 Follow the Lions on Facebook at, twitter @columbuslions and


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 For more information about the NAL visit,,,