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1991-1992 New York/New Jersey Knights

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World League of American Football (1991-1992)

Born: 1990 – WLAF founding franchise
Folded: September 1992

Stadium: Giants Stadium (76,000)

Team Colors: Black, Silver & Gold

Owner: Robert F.X. Sillerman


The New York/New Jersey Knights were a short-lived franchise in the NFL’s early 1990’s developmental league, the World League of American Football.  Largely forgotten today, the Knights at least deserve some modest credit for their earnest-yet-ungainly attempt to resolve the cross-border identity crisis of Giants Stadium and the Meadowlands.

Run & Shoot offense innovator Mouse Davis was the Knights’ head coach for both seasons of play, although the offense – helmed variously by Jeff Graham, Doug Pederson and Reggie Slack – never put up the kind of record-shattering, pinball machine numbers that Davis’ Houston Gamblers and Denver Gold offenses did in the United States Football League.

The Knights went 5-5 in their first season and advanced to the 1991 WLAF playoffs, where they lost to the eventual champion London Monarchs.  The following season the Knights improved to 6-4, but missed the postseason.

In September 1992 the NFL pulled the plug to the World League after only two seasons of play.  Although the European teams proved popular, the weak television ratings and limited box office appeal of the American clubs hurt the league.  The Knights were the best draw among the American teams, averaging over 30,000 fans per game in 1991.


==New York-New Jersey Knights Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other


1991 3/24/1991 @ Barcelona Dragons L 19-7 Video
1991 3/31/1991 @ London Monarchs L 22-18 Program
1991 4/6/1991 vs. Frankfurt Galaxy L 27-17 Program
1991 4/22/1991 vs. Sacramento Surge W 28-20 Program
1991 4/27/1991 vs. Orlando Thunder  W 42-6 Video
1991 5/20/1991 @ Birmingham Fire L 24-14 Program Video
1991 6/2/1991 vs. London Monarchs L 42-26 Program


1992 4/4/1992 vs. San Antonio Riders L 9-3 Video
1992 4/12/1992 @ Orlando Thunder  L 39-21 Video
1992 5/3/1992 vs. London Monarchs W 41-13 Program
1992 5/16/1992 vs. Barcelona Dragons W 47-0 Video




The Knights host the San Antonio Riders at Giants Stadium on April 4, 1992



WLAF/NFL Europe Media Guides

WLAF/NFL Europe Programs


1991-2003 Barcelona Dragons


World League of American Football (1991-1992)
World League (1995-1997)
NFL Europe (1998-2003)

Born: 1990 – WLAF founding franchise
Folded: Postseason 2003


Team Colors: Dark Green, Scarlet & Yellow


NFL Europe World Bowl Champions: 1997


The Barcelona Dragons were a founding franchise in the NFL-backed World League of American Football (1991-1992), which sought to serve as both a developmental league for the NFL and a marketing mechanism to extend the NFL brand into European markets.  The original concept saw a mix of European (Barcelona, Frankfurt & London) franchises with North American franchises.

The NFL pulled the plug on the WLAF after two seasons in September 1992.  But the league was re-organized as the Europe-only “World League” in 1995 and the Barcelona Dragons returned to action after a two-year hiatus.  In 1998 the World League was re-branded as NFL Europe.  The Dragons played nine seasons in the re-booted league before going out of business after the 2003 season.

All told, the Dragons played eleven seasons and made four trips to the World Bowl championship game, winning their lone title at World Bowl ’97.

Former Boston College head coach Jack Bicknell was the Dragons’ only head coach for their 11-year history and the team employed quite a few former Boston College Eagles over the years, including 1985 Outland Trophy winner Mike Ruth, who played for the 1991 and 1992 Dragons after his NFL career failed to pan out.

Other notable players included ex-Penn State defensive lineman Bruce Clark, the #4 overall pick in the 1980 NFL Draft, who finished his career with Barcelona in 1991.  Former Notre Dame quarterback Tony Rice, who led the Fighting Irish to the national championship in 1988, played for the Dragons in 1991 and 1992 but could not unseat ex-Rutgers signal caller Scott Erney for the starting job.  Former Temple running back Paul Palmer, an NFL 1st round draft bust in 1987, played for the Dragons in 1991 and 1992.

The Dragons – and the World League’s – most notorious player was former UConn linebacker Eric Naposki.  Naposki, who kicked around the NFL briefly in the late 1980’s as an undrafted free agent, was Barcelona’s leading tackler in 1991.  He played the 1991 & 1992 seasons during the WLAF era and later returned to play for the Dragons again in 1996 and 1997.  In 2012, Naposki was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the 15-year old murder-for-hire of Bill McLaughlin in Newport Beach, California in December 1994.  The murder went unsolved for 15 years before Naposki and a female accomplice were arrested.  Chillingly, Naposki continued to play for the Dragons for two seasons after committing the killing.


==Barcelona Dragons Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

 Year Date Opponent Score Program Other


1991 3/24/1991 vs. New York/New Jersey Knights W 19-7 Video
1991 6/2/1991 @ Birmingham Fire W 10-3 Program
1991 6/9/1991 @ London Monarchs L 21-0 Video


1992 5/23/1992 @ Orlando Thunder L 13-10 Video


1996 4/21/1996 @ Scottish Claymores L 23-13 Program




June 9, 1991 – The Dragons face the London Monarchs in World Bowl I before 61,000 fans at Wembley Stadium.



WLAF/NFL Europe Media Guides

WLAF/NFL Europe Programs


1991-1992 Sacramento Surge

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World League of American Football (1991-1992)

Born: June 8, 1990 – WLAF founding franchise.
September 17, 1992


Team Colors:

Owner: Fred Anderson

World Bowl Champions: 1992


The Sacramento Surge were a minor league football team in the NFL-sponsored World League of American Football for two spring seasons in 1991 and 1992.  During their debut season, the Surge played at Hughes Stadium.  In 1992 the team moved across town to Sacramento State’s Hornet Stadium.

The first Surge team in 1991 fared poorly under former Buffalo Bills Head Coach Kay Stephenson.  The team finished 3-7 and out of the playoff hunt.  The roster was composed primarily of late 1980’s NFL draft picks-turned-training camp casualties, plus refugees from the Canadian Football League.  In a nod to the league’s international pretensions, there were also a couple of “Operation Discovery” players from overseas attempting to adapt their athletic talents to the sport of American football.  The Surge had a Swedish linebacker named Matti Lindholm and a German defensive lineman named Oliver Erhorn.

1991 Surge starting quarterback Mike Elkins was exactly the kind of the player the World League was designed for.  A 2nd round draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs out of Wake Forest in 1989, Elkins was expected to be the Chiefs quarterback of the 1990’s.  But Elkins had accuracy troubles and spent his first two years in the NFL holding a clipboard on the sidelines.  More than anything else, Elkins needed snaps and the WLAF would provide a competitive developmental environment for that kind of player.  Elkins started 9 games for the Surge in 1991 on assignment from Kansas City and then reported back to Chiefs training camp, where he was released in the team’s final cutdown for the 1991 NFL season.

The Surge returned in 1992 with all-new players at the key skills positions.  Elkins was gone, replaced by NFL journeyman David Archer, who was one of the older players in the league at age 30.  Former Atlanta Falcons practice squadder Mike Pringle took over lead running back duties.  Former Iowa State receiver Eddie Brown returned to the States from the Canadian Football League.

Archer would lead the WLAF with 2,964 yards passing and 23 touchdowns in only 10 games.  Brown was the league’s best in receiving yardage (1,011) and touchdown receptions (12).  Pringle was a double-threat running the ball and catching passes out of the backfield.  On defense, the Surge unearthed a Seattle Seahawks practice squad player named Michael Sinclair.  Sinclair tore up the World League with 10 sacks in 1992 and would go on to become one of the NFL’s most feared pass rushers of the 1990’s, earning three Pro Bowl nods during a decade with the Seahawks.

Sacramento Surge World BowlAnother notable player on the 1992 edition of the Surge was defensive tackle Bill Goldberg, an 11th round draft choice of the Los Angeles Rams out of the University of Georgia in 1990.  Goldberg would parlay his World League experience into a brief NFL career with the Atlanta Falcons in the early Nineties, but his real fame came at the end of the decade as the World Championship Wrestling and WWE star Goldberg.

The 1992 Surge tied with the Orlando Thunder for the best record in the World League at 8-2.  The two teams met in the World Bowl II championship game at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on June 6, 1992.  Down 17-6 entering the 4th quarter, David Archer threw touchdown passes to tight end Paul Green and to Eddie Brown to lead a furious 15-point rally, as the Surge won the championship 21-17.  Archer was named game MVP.   This turned out to be the final game for the league.

The NFL pulled the plug on the WLAF in September 1992 after two years of operation.  Surge owner Fred Anderson wanted to soldier on and acquired a Canadian Football League expansion franchise for Sacramento to begin play in July of 1993.  Anderson’s Sacramento Gold Miners were the first CFL team to be based in the United States.   The Gold Miners were in some ways a continuation of the Surge in a new league, retaining the old team’s color scheme, Head Coach Kay Stephenson, and quite a few players, including starting quarterback David Archer.

The Gold Miners played two seasons in Sacramento (1993-1994) before moving to San Antonio, Texas.


Sacramento Surge Memorabilia


In Memoriam

Defensive back Junior Robinson died in a car accident on September 30, 1995.  He was 27 years old.

Former Surge defensive lineman Nate Hill passed away on September 18, 2012 at age 41.


Sacramento Surge Video

April 27, 1991.  The Surge host Spain’s Barcelona Dragons at Hughes Stadium before a crowd of 19,045 and a national cable audience on USA Network.



World League of American Football Media Guides

World League of American Football Programs

1991 Sacramento Surge Statistics on

1992 Sacramento Surge Statistics on


1991-1992 Orlando Thunder

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World League of American Football (1991-1992)

Born: 1990 – WLAF founding franchise.
Died: September 1992 – The WLAF ceases operations.

Stadium: The Florida Citrus Bowl (70,000)

Team Colors: Lime Green, Royal Blue & Light Blue

Owner: Raj Bhathal


Remember the World League of American Football (1991-1992), the NFL-backed spring developmental league that stretched from Sacramento to Barcelona?  The WLAF was pretty popular in Europe but never really caught on stateside, despite national TV contracts with ABC and The USA Network.  If you recall the World League at all, chances are it’s for one of two things: the USA Network’s “Helmet Cam”, which put viewers into the heads of quarterbacks about to be bulldozed by 300-lb. linemen, or for the blinding florescent green uniforms of the Orlando Thunder franchise.

Thunder owner Raj Bhathal was a swimwear manufacturer in Newport Beach, California.  The Thunder’s lime green hue might have blended right into Bhathal’s spring line of bikinis, but it was a novel attention grabber on a pro football field.

Whatever you thought of the Thunder’s look – ESPN Page 2 columnist Paul Lukas rated them the 2nd worst in the history of pro football in 2006 – the team did play an exciting, pass happy brand of football under Head Coach Don Matthews during their first season in the spring of 1991.  Former University of Florida quarterback Kerwin Bell tied for the league lead in passing touchdowns with 17.  But the Thunder were streaky and finished out of the playoffs at 5-5.

As TV ratings and game attendance lagged in the U.S., one criticism of the league was that it lacked compelling NFL prospects, despite its mission as a developmental league.  The WLAF tended to be a last chance destination for disappointing 2nd or 3rd round quarterbacks-turned-clipboard holders like Anthony Dilweg and Mike Elkins.  There wasn’t a sense that you were watching the stars of tomorrow, as you might have in triple-A baseball, for instance.

The Thunder certainly had their fair share of draft busts and disappointments, including running backs Roger Vick (New York Jets 1st rounder, 1987) and Darryl Clack (Dallas Cowboys 2nd round, 1986).  But in a category unto himself was notorious offensive lineman Kevin Allen (Philadelphia Eagles 1st round, 1985), who joined the Thunder in 1992 on assignment from the Kansas City Chiefs.  Orlando’s willingness to accept Kevin Allen, who served 33 months of a 15-year sentence for a brutal 1986 rape perpetrated with the assistance of a former Philadelphia Eagles intern, stands as a stain on all those involved with the senior management of the team.  Allen was out of football six years when he became a starter for the Thunder in 1992.  Fortunately, he never played again.

A notable exception to all this was Miami Dolphins quarterback Scott Mitchell, who was sent to Orlando for seasoning in the 1992 season.  As a true prospect on assignment from an NFL club, Mitchell quickly relegated Kerwin Bell to the bench.  Mitchell was 2nd in the WLAF in passing yards in 1992 and helped lead the team to an 8-2 record and a berth in World Bowl ’92 against the Sacramento Surge at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium.

The Surge defeated the Thunder 21-17 in the league championship game on June 6, 1992.  This would prove to the last game in the league’s brief two-year history.

Like most of the American clubs, attendance was somewhat disappointing in Orlando.  The Thunder averaged 19,018 fans for five dates at the Florida Citrus Bowl and dropped to 16,522 in 1992, despite the team’s dramatic improvement in the standings.  The local Orlando Sentinel newspaper pilloried absentee owner Raj Bhathal for running a cut-rate, blundering operation on numerous occasions, typified by the team’s decision to make its cheerleaders pay their own way to the World Bowl ’92 title game in Montreal.

In September 1992, the NFL pulled the plug on the World League after two seasons.  The spring developmental concept was re-worked and then re-launched as NFL Europe in 1995, with all three of the WLAF’s European franchises returning, along with several new overseas markets.


==Orlando Thunder Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other


1991 3/25/1991 vs. San Antonio Riders W 35-34 Program
1991 3/30/1991 vs. Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks W 58-20 Program
1991 4/6/1991 @ London Monarchs L 35-12 Program Video
1991 4/14/1991 @ Barcelona Dragons L 33-13 Video
1991 4/21/1991 vs. Birmingham Fire L 31-16 Video
1991 4/27/1991 @ New York-New Jersey Knights L 42-6 Video
1991 5/4/1991 vs. Frankfurt Galaxy L 17-14 Video
1991 5/11/1991 vs. Sacramento Surge W 45-33 Video
1991 5/27/1991 @ Montreal Machine W 33-27 (OT) Video


1992 3/22/1992 vs. Ohio Glory W 13-9 Video
1992 3/28/1992 @ Montreal Machine L 31-29 Video
1992 4/5/1992 @ Ohio Glory W 28-3 Video
1992 4/12/1992 vs. New York-New Jersey Knights W 39-21 Video
1992 4/19/1992 vs. Montreal Machine W 16-8 Video
1992 5/23/1992 vs. Barcelona Dragons W 13-10 Video
1992 6/6/1992 vs. Sacramento Surge (@ Montreal) L 21-17 Program



==Notable Players==


The Thunder host the Birmingham Fire at the Florida Citrus Bowl. April 21, 1991.

The Thunder, with future Detroit Lions QB Scott Mitchell under center, against the New York-New Jersey Knights. 1992 season.




World League of American Football Media Guides

World League of American Football Programs


1991-1992 Montreal Machine

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World League of American Football (1991-1992)

Born: 1990 – WLAF founding franchise.
Folded: September 1992.

Stadium: Olympic Stadium (56,384)

Team Colors: Maroon, Silver & Navy

Owner: Roger Dore


The Montreal Machine were a popular pro football franchise in the NFL-sponsored World League of American Football (WLAF) from 1991 to 1992.  The WLAF was a springtime league that included three European teams (Barcelona, Frankfurt, London), the Machine, and six U.S.-based clubs (Birmingham, New York-New Jersey, Orlando, Raleigh-Durham, Sacramento, San Antonio).

The Machine were never particularly competitive on the field, posting losing records of 4-6 and 2-8 in their two seasons of existence.  But at the turnstiles, the team was a hit, defying both the lackluster box office of the other North American WLAF clubs and the checkered history of pro football in Montreal.  The Machine’s home debut on April 1st, 1991 against Spain’s Barcelona Dragons drew a regular season record crowd of 53,238 at Olympic Stadium.

For the 1991 season, the Machine averaged 31,882, third in the WLAF behind London and New York-New Jersey.  WLAF officials and media observers attributed the Machine’s success to its embrace of French language and culture.  Team President Roger Dore, a former Labatt’s executive, GM Gordon Cahill and Head Coach Jacques Dussault were all French-speaking Quebec natives and were able to market the team to sponsors, media and fans in French.

Crowd composition reflected the “French Connection” marketing approach, according to a 1991 Chicago Tribune article Machine officials estimated that 80-90% of the Machine’s fan were young (18-35) and French-speaking.  Also backing up this assertion: the Associated Press reported that Machine fans at the 1991 home opener booed the Canadian National Anthem.

Attendance sagged somewhat to 25,254 per game in 1992 as the novelty wore off and the Machine continued to play poorly on the field (2-8).  But based on the overall success of the WLAF in Montreal, the Machine were selected as the neutral site hosts of the 1992 World Bowl at Olympic Stadium.  43,789 turned out on June 6, 1992 for the title game, in which the Sacramento Surge defeated the Orlando Thunder 21-17.  The game was broadcast back to the United States on the USA cable network.

World Bowl ’92 turned out to be the final hurrah for the WLAF.  The league’s NFL financiers pulled the plug in September 1992 after two seasons.  The league was re-constituted  three years later as NFL Europe, reviving the Barcelona, Frankfurt and London franchises, but abandoning the concept of minor league spring football in North America.

Notable players who suited up for the Machine included punter Chris Mohr, who used his 1991 stint in the WLAF to launch a 14-year NFL career and tight end Keith Jennings, who went on to a seven-year stint in the NFL after playing for the Machine in 1991.

The club also featured several NFL veterans finishing out their careers in the WLAF.  This short list included former Cincinnati Bengals 1st round draft bust Emanuel King, long-time Detroit Lions wide receiver Pete Mandley, ex-Kansas City Chiefs tight end K.D. Dunn, quarterback Anthony Dilweg who never panned out with the Green Bay Packers, and former Dallas Cowboys backup QB Kevin Sweeney.

Former Los Angeles Raiders linebacker Reggie McKenzie (1985-1988) made a comeback with the Machine in 1992 after three years out of football.  After his playing days ended in 1992, he went into administration and was named General Manager of the Oakland Raiders in January 2012.

Pro Football – of the three-down, 110-yard Canadian variety – returned to Montreal in 1996 with yet another re-boot of the Montreal Alouettes brand in the Canadian Football League.  This time it took and the new Alouettes embarked on their 20th season of play in the summer of 2015.





World League of American Football Media Guides

World League of American Football Programs


Written by AC

August 1st, 2012 at 4:29 pm


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