Most among us likely thought Antonio Brown’s pro football career was over the day he bared his midriff to the masses and dipped out on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers midgame.
For a time, anyway, it was. But, at long last, the mercurial wide receiver is set to return to the gridiron — and to make his debut for the Albany Empire, a National Arena League team of which he is a part owner.
Antonio Brown To Make Empire Debut on Saturday, June 17
That’s right, Brown confirmed, via TMZ Sports, that he’ll be suiting up for the Empire’s next home game, which will be on June 17 against the Jacksonville Sharks.
“We’re going to continue to be encouraging, continue to give the people of Albany what they wanna see,” Brown told WNYT’s Rodger Wyland on Thursday. “I will have the right, proper equipment this week. You’re not selling false information. We’re not telling the people that we’re going to do something that we’re not going to do.”
Of course, the false information Brown’s referring to would be the hiccup he encountered last week when a delayed physical prevented him from making his Empire debut. But the former Pittsburgh Steelers star seems confident he’ll be a full-go when the Sharks come to town.
That game is slated for a 7 p.m. ET kickoff and will be played at the MVP Arena in Albany.
Former Carolina Panthers MVP QB Cam Newton has yet to respond to Brown’s invitation to join him for the festivities. Instead, it seems like he issued a sort of tennis challenge, in his trademark hieroglyphic font, on Twitter.
So we can probably rule Newton out.
Who Will Be on the Field With Brown?
Brown’s quarterback will likely be Roland Rivers III. He is, after all, the only quarterback listed on the Empire roster.
Rivers played his college ball at Division II Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania and was quite prolific. He racked up a boatload of accolades during his two-year stint as a starter, including the Harlon Hill Trophy, which is awarded annually to the Division II College Football Player of the Year.
Rivers piled up 7,181 passing yards, 80 passing touchdowns, 1,297 rushing yards, and 16 rushing scores during his two seasons under center for Slippery Rock.
Some other notable Empire players include Nickolas Brassell, who was briefly productive with Ole Miss before academic issues prematurely ended his career, and Isaiah Hardy, who started a handful of games on the offensive line for the West Virginia Mountaineers.
The Sharks, likewise, have a handful of notable players on their roster.
Defensive lineman David Gilbert accumulated nine sacks during a playing career split between Wisconsin and Miami. His Empire teammate, cornerback Jabari Gorman, notched over 100 tackles and three interceptions during his career with the Florida Gators.
Perhaps the biggest “what-could-have-been” between the two rosters is Sharks wide receiver/defensive back Tamorrion Terry. The NAL rookie once starred at Florida State, posting 1,188 receiving yards and nine touchdowns back in 2019.
Injuries limited Terry to five games in 2020, and after a quieter season, the Seminoles standout went undrafted. He’d have a cup of coffee with the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent but was released before training camp even got underway.
Shortly after his signing with Seattle, Terry was one of 11 indicted on felony murder charges relating to a fatal, reportedly gang-related nightclub shooting that took place in Ashburn, Georgia, in June of 2018, per CBS Sports.
As a result, the Seahawks cut Terry before the ink had even dried on his contract. It appears that he was later exonerated — this tweet has a screenshot of an Instagram post he made celebrating his relief after a tumultuous year.
Were Terry already established in the NFL, that verdict might’ve salvaged his career. But as an end-of-the-roster guy, the damage was done.
Now, ironically, Terry, who plays both defensive back and wide receiver for the Sharks, will likely line up opposite Brown at some point soon.
Just not in the, ahem, arena, in which either of them likely thought they’d be playing ball five years ago.