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Birmingham Iron picks Luis Perez, Blake Sims in AAF quarterback draft

The Birmingham Iron selected Luis Perez in the first round of the Alliance of American Football’s Protect or Pick Quarterback Draft on Tuesday night.

All the quarterbacks signed by AAF teams were in the pool for the draft, with each team given the option of protecting one of the quarterbacks on its roster as its first-round selection. Four teams decided to protect a quarterback, and four decided to pick from the unprotected quarterbacks throughout the Alliance.

Birmingham was the first team to pick after the San Diego Fleet protected Josh Johnson, the Atlanta Legends protected Aaron Murray, the Memphis Express protected Troy Cook and the San Antonio Commanders protected Dustin Vaughan at Esports Arena Las Vegas at The Luxor.

The Iron bypassed the seven quarterbacks on its roster to draft Perez.

The quarterbacks that Birmingham chose not to protect were Stephen Garcia, John Gibbs, Eli Jenkins, R.J. Nitti, Max Shortell, Brandon Silvers and Blake Sims.

But with the second pick in the second round, the Iron retained Sims by drafting the former Alabama signal-caller after San Diego had selected Mike Bercovici with the first pick in the round.

Silvers, a former Gulf Shores High School and Troy standout, was drafted, but he went to Memphis with the second pick of the third round.

Perez won the Harlon Hill Trophy as the top player in NCAA Division II during the 2017 season, when he led Texas A&M-Commerce to the national championship. Perez completed 421-of-596 passes for 5,001 yards with 46 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in his final collegiate season.

“After all my years in the coaching profession, both at major programs in the NCAA and the NFL, I know the importance of a quarterback to a team,” said Joe Pendry, the Iron’s general manager. “We spent countless hours evaluating these players and feel as if we have made the correct decision to get this team off to its best start. We all look forward to getting Luis in and beginning the process of immersing him into our system with the other quarterbacks and giving him an opportunity to compete and become the leader that every quarterback must be for a successful team.”

Birmingham Iron gives first look at uniforms for inaugural season

Perez signed with the Los Angeles Rams as a rookie free agent and participated in the offseason and training camp with the NFL team this year. He played in one preseason game, completing 8-of-15 passes for 43 yards with no touchdowns and one interception against the New Orleans Saints.

Released when the Rams reduced their 90-player preseason roster to the NFL regular-season limit of 53 on Sept. 1, Perez was re-signed for Los Angeles’ practice squad, and he spent two weeks on the 10-man unit before being released.

“We spent a lot of time going through this process and evaluating all of these quarterbacks,” Birmingham coach Tim Lewis said. “We put together a detailed and organized plan with how we wanted this process to go in terms of who would be the best fit for our team. I am pleased with how we executed our plan to get the guy we wanted. The quarterback position is an important piece of the puzzle, and Luis possesses the qualities that we were looking for. We are eager to get him in the building and go to work.”

After Birmingham chose Perez, the Arizona Hotshots selected Trevor Knight, the Orlando Apollos picked Garrett Gilbert and the Salt Lake City Stallions drafted Josh Woodrum to finish the first round.

Quarterback is the only position subject to a draft in the eight-team AAF, which is scheduled to kick off its inaugural season in February.

Under the Alliance’s player-allocation policy, former college stars are paired with regional AAF teams. Birmingham holds the rights to players from the football-playing colleges in Alabama. The Iron also can claim players from South Carolina, Mississippi State, Louisiana Tech, North Carolina State, Maryland and Missouri.

That’s why the Iron’s original QB roster included Silvers, Sims, and Jenkins and Shortell of Jacksonville State.

Sims set Alabama single-season records for total offense and passing yards in the 2014 season, and he’s spent time on rosters of the Toronto Argonauts and the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Canadian Football League and been a member of the practice squads of the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL. Sims had been out of football since being waived by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Aug. 28, 2017.

In the third and fourth rounds, the team order was reversed, giving Birmingham the next-to-last pick in each round.

In the third round, the Iron picked Scott Tolzien off the Memphis roster. In the fourth round, Birmingham selected Alek Torgersen off the Arizona roster.

Tolzien won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award as the nation’s top senior or fourth-year junior quarterback in 2010 at Wisconsin. He has 10 games of NFL experience and started a game for the Indianapolis Colts in the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

Torgersen led Penn to consecutive Ivy League titles and set school records for touchdown passes and yards of total offense. He went to NFL training camp with the Atlanta Falcons last year and spent time on the practice squads of the Washington Redskins and Detroit Lions in 2017. He’d been out of football since being released by the Arizona Cardinals in May.

The quarterbacks (from the first through the fourth rounds) for each Alliance team safet the Protect or Pick Quarterback Draft on Tuesday night in Las Vegas:

Arizona Hotshots: Trevor Knight, John Wolford, Quinn McQueary, Jack Heneghan.

Atlanta Legend: Aaron Murray, Matt Simms, Peter Pujals, Justin Holman.

Birmingham Iron: Luis Perez, Blake Sims, Scott Tolzien, Alek Torgersen.

Memphis Express: Troy Cook, Christian Hackenberg, Brandon Silvers, Zach Mettenberger.

Orlando Apollos: Garrett Gilbert, Stephen Morris, Austin Appleby, Kevin Anderson.

Salt Lake City Stallions: Josh Woodrum, B.J. Daniels, Austin Allen, Matt Linehan.

San Antonio Commanders: Dustin Vaughan, Marquise Williams, Logan Woodside, Dalton Sturm.

San Diego Fleet: Josh Johnson, Mike Bercovici, Phillip Nelson, Alex Ross.

Alabama quarterback Blake Sims passes against Missouri during the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 6, 2014, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)  Scott Cunningham

Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.

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