Fridays are reserved for football in Texas, and as high school games were taking place across the city, San Antonio’s newest team used the evening on November 6th to host their first public appearance event as an organization.
You’ve heard the name before, but these San Antonio Gunslingers are a different brand of football than the team their name pays homage to, and their other predecessors.
Joining an already established league in the American Arena League (AAL), the locally owned and operated Gunslingers aren’t painting larger visions of grandeur and exposure like the Alliance of American Football, XFL and and even AFL (Arena Football League) may have presented. That doesn’t mean, however, that they can’t make a little noise as they return professional football to the Alamo City, like they did Friday night.
“For the team, I think this was kind of a springboard for them to get more exposure and some acceptance in the community,” Leo Llamas, said of the event. Llamas is one of the hosts of The Smokin’ Gunz Podcast, a bi-weekly podcast covering the team. “A lot of local fans have been speculative, and understandably, as many are still reeling from the sudden collapse of the AAF and the history of failures of local pro level football teams. Those skeptics should get the encouragement they need by hearing from the local ownership, and from Coach Hernandez, also local, and their very evident efforts in community engagement and support.”
For a socially-distanced crowd (masks were required when guests left their table) of over 60 friends, family and fans at the Alamo Beer Company downtown, the Gunslingers introduced the team’s leadership behind San Antonio’s newest team. First to take the stage was the ownership group of Hector Garcia (CEO), Jason Torres (COO), Juan Ramirez (CFO), and Jonathan Young (GM), where Torres took the opportunity to thank the fans.
“To those that have been with us from the very beginning, who shared this dream with us, everybody who was a little gun-shy about going with the Gunslingers because of everything that has happened in the past. You fans have been loyal to us, you’ve been there from the start, and we can’t thank you enough. We promise to deliver on an amazing team, an amazing season, and a football team that is here to stay for many years to come. We truly appreciate everyone that’s here tonight to support us.”
Next to take the microphone and emcee the rest of the evening was Tony Hernandez, who was named this summer as head coach of the football team, but in his introduction of Hernandez, Torres announced that head coach would also serve as team president as well.
A San Antonio native, Coach Hernandez shared his personal connection to the city as more than just his birthplace, but truly his home, providing another reminder to the fans of the passion behind this team coming to stay after professional football teams in the Alamo City have always been short lived.
With Hernandez on the mic, it was time for the moment everyone in attendance was waiting for – The revealing of the team’s inaugural uniforms for both practice and game-days. In true Texas fashion, Coach Hernandez introduced the “Pistoleros de San Antonio, Tejas” as ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man” played in the background and the players took the catwalk.
The first scheme displayed was the practice uniform for the quarterbacks, with a red jersey over blue shorts and the Gunslingers helmet that is blue and sports a white stripe split by a red stripe down the middle. The red jersey is a practice only option for quarterbacks, a very common “red flag” to protect them from defenders in live drills.
The next uniform to come out was a white jersey over the blue practice shorts. A couple of blue jerseys over white pants were followed by a couple of players in all white schemes, and the inaugural uniforms for the San Antonio Gunslingers were unveiled.
There is one more uniform yet to be released, and that is the alternate military edition that will pay tribute to the servicemen and women that call Military City USA home. Coach Hernandez shared a personal story behind the concept of that jersey, and why it wasn’t shown Friday night.
After it was agreed with ownership and Coach Hernandez that he would be the head coach, ownership asked if there were any special requests he had. Recalling the story, Hernandez said,
“’First off all, I’d like to talk to you about the number 19 jersey.’ I said, ‘No one is allowed to wear the number 19 jersey.’ He said, ‘Ok,’…‘You brought up the subject matter about one of our games is going to be a military appreciation game. Back in 2005 I had a master sergeant by the name of Reggie Cook. He was my starting quarterback. Served in the Air Force, and he was responsible for training canines to protect our soldiers as they were overseas. Protecting them from IEDs. And we lost Reggie Cook to a tragic accident, and a part of my heart died that day.’… ‘But for one game, that military appreciation game, there’s a young boy by the name of Gabriel Cook. He was in a stroller the day his dad died. I would like the permission to sign Gabriel Cook to an honorary one-day contract. I’d like to put that number 19 jersey on his back, and I’d like him to lead us out that game.’”
Coach Hernandez told the crowd that Gabriel couldn’t be in attendance at the event, but his older sister, Aaliyah Cook, was introduced to an applause from the audience. The team will release the uniform when Gabriel is able to be part of the process.
In addition to the uniforms, the team announced that Alamo Beer Company, the team’s official beer and venue host of the event, will have two new beers releasing soon, complete with Gunslinger edition cans. The brewery confirmed the beverages will be available at area H-E-B’s.
With the coming out party complete, it’s back to work for the players and coaches who will work over the coming months in order to field a winning unit when the inaugural season starts in March 2021. With as much noise as the team made on this Friday evening in November, they plan to make much more come spring.
“We’re not into this thing just to be competitive,” Coach Hernandez informed the crowd, “We’re wanting to do something where you can say, ‘We’re going to watch a team that we know.’, or you know what, when the smoke clears – ‘We’re in the playoffs.’ We’re not waiting until the second or the third year; We’re going to make our presence felt right off the bat.”
These are big words for a city that’s hungry to once again have professional football, and these guys are paid pros, the bar has been set. However, we’ve had winning football in this city too, most recently with the Commanders of the AAF. Can Gunslingers be first since the Talons of the AFL to last multiple seasons in the Alamo City? That’s the first goal in the hearts of fans.
Leo Llamas, has covered the team closely since they were officially announced this summer, even having numerous conversations with the ownership and staff of the Gunslingers.
“These guys are engaging the fans and community from top to bottom and are not gonna pack up and leave under any circumstance, other than the city not showing them the support, which they are doing their best to earn.”
A good friend of mine always says of football in San Antonio, “More football is good football.”
Local name, local coach, local ownership, and a heavily local roster. What do you say San Antonio – Are you ready to give spring football another go?
Are you excited about the San Antonio Gunslingers? Let me know @JarkClonas and through @ProjectSpurs. If you like the development side of professional sports, check out my coverage of the Austin Spurs HERE.
For more information on the San Antonio Gunslingers, check them out on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/210sagunslingers
For the Smokin’ Gunz Podcast, check them out on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.