Last weekend brought the first four games of the Alliance of American Football, a new league seeking to serve as a middle ground between college football and the NFL that's playing its inaugural season this winter and spring. In the past weeks and months, we offered a look at the ins and outs of the AAF, as well as a rundown of the factors working for and against its potential success.
And appropriately enough for a new professional football league backed by some major names in venture capital, one of the brightest stars of the AAF's opening weekend was a former finance major who, until quite recently, was working as a private equity analyst at a firm called Teall Capital.
That would be John Wolford, the quarterback for the Arizona Hotshots, who completed 18 of his 29 pass attempts for 275 yards and four touchdowns in his team's 38-22 win over the Salt Lake Stallions, in what was probably the most exciting contest on the AAF's opening slate. Wolford's LinkedIn page lists him as a "Private Equity Analyst at Teall Capital and NFL Free Agent" and says he's worked at Teall since last August.
There are some obvious ties between the quarterback and the firm. From 2014 to 2018, Wolford attended Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC, where he earned second-team all-conference honors as a senior and was twice named national player of the week. Teall Capital is also based in Winston-Salem, and the firm is focused on the sports, media, marketing and entertainment sectors. Teall is led by Ben Sutton, a former chairman and CEO of IMG College, a college sports sponsorship and media giant. IMG College is a unit of IMG Worldwide, which, in another PE tie, sold to Silver Lake and WME for $2.4 billion in 2014.
Wolford worked as an intern at philanthropy-focused firm Verger Capital Management during the summer of 2017, and he was ready to begin a career in finance until pro football came calling. He was in training camp with the New York Jets last summer before linking up with the Hotshots earlier this winter. He beat out presumed starter and former Oklahoma star Trevor Knight to be under center for the franchise's opening game.
Wolford and the rest of the Arizona team's offensive display was part of a promising opening weekend for the AAF, which is banking on fans and consumers being hungry for football during the post-Super Bowl void. The league's opening night broadcast reportedly drew a 2.1 overnight rating Saturday on CBS, followed by a 0.4 figure for Sunday's broadcasts on the NFL Network.
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