Building An (Albany) Empire, Part 1

by Mike Pelletier 

A series of new faces have been officially added to the Albany Empire roster, including some veterans of the AFL.

The roster went from 0 to 16 after starting with two local athletes, Jordan Canzeri and Wade Hansen, taking on the wide receiver and offensive lineman positions.

Since then, the Albany Empire have expanded their receiving core adding Paul Browning, Malachi Jones, and Trevor Kennedy. 

Browning is familiar with Head Coach Rob Keefe after playing a year with him for the Orlando Predators before being traded to the Cleveland Gladiators. Jones comes from the High Country Grizzlies and Kennedy from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League. Each has hit impressive milestones in their careers with Browning holding high school all-time records for receiving yards and touchdowns, and Jones and Kennedy both being named Offensive Rookie of the Year in their respective leagues. 

Paul Browning (photo credit: 360sports.com)
Besides Hansen, three offensive lineman have been added. Dave Lefotu of the Tampa Bay Storm, and Shawn Lockett and Bret Piekarski of the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks have all come aboard. 

Lefotu, a graduate of the University of Hawaii, was named first team All-IFL in 2016 before heading to the Tampa Bay Storm. Lockett, a native of Springfield, Massachusetts, played under current Albany Empire Offensive Coordinator, Chris Thompson with the Lehigh Valley. Piekarski made first team All-American and All-Conference during his time at St. Cloud State University.

The Empire made 8 signings on the defensive side, as well. Darryl Cato-Bishop, an experienced AFL veteran of three years, led the league in tackles for loss during the 2016 year, and the 2017 year in strip sacks as a defensive lineman. Also signed to the defensive line position were Lance McDowdell, Max Nacewicz, Derrick Summers, and Trumaine (Joe) Sykes. All four are veterans of professional football with Sykes leading the pack at 12 years experience. He boasts holding the third place all-time record for sacks in the AFL. McDowdell, a New York native, played with Colorado Crush after coming out of the University of Central Florida. After setting the single season records for sacks and tackles for losses at Springfield University, Nacewicz attended various NFL workouts before joining the Tampa Bay Storm. With seven years of experience. Summers comes to the Empire holding the single season sack record for Jacksonville. 

Darryl Cato-Bishop in college at North Carolina State (photo credit: rantsports.com)
Oshay Dunmore, a defensive back out of Illinois State University, helped lead his college team to a school best record of 13-2 and made a National Championship run. Also coming on board as a defensive back is Varmah Sonie, who was named the second team All-Arena honors after playing for the Baltimore Brigade. Alvin Ray Jackson, a three time All-Arena team member, played at the Times Union Center for the Albany Firebirds in 2009 and helped lead his Albany State University of Georgia to back to back conference championships. 

More roster signings are to be announced as the week progresses, but Head Coach Rob Keefe is already “confident that these players will not only showcase some of the best talent that the league has to offer, but compete as one of the premier teams in the Arena Football League.” 

To learn more about Albany Empire or to purchase tickets to the big day, go to www.thealbanyempire.com

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