|Home field||Legion Field|
The Birmingham Thunderbolts were a professional football team as part of the XFL's single season in 2001. Playing their lone season at Legion Field under head coach Gerry Dinardo the team's record was 2-8-0 with an average of 13.1 points per game scored and 20.2 points per game allowed. Also simply referred to as the Bolts, their five home games were played before an average crowd of 17,004.
The XFL was developed in a partnership between Vince McMahon's WWF and NBC. The league was formally announced on February 3, 2000, with its partnership with NBC announced on March 29. The league was a spring American football league which had 8 teams playing a 10-game regular season. Teams were aligned into two divisions:
- Eastern Division: Birmingham Thunderbolts, Chicago Enforcers, New York/New Jersey Hitmen, Orlando Rage
- Western Division: Las Vegas Outlaws, Los Angeles Xtreme, Memphis Maniax, San Francisco Demons
The regular season began on Saturday, February 21, 2001 and ran through Sunday, April 8 without any bye weeks. On each weekend two games were played on Saturday nights and two again played on Sunday with one in the afternoon and one in the evening.
The playoff format consisted of the top two teams in each division. The semifinal playoff games took place on the weekend of April 14-15. The two teams emerging from the XFL semifinal playoffs met at the end of the season in The Big Game At The End. The lone championship game was held on April 21, 2001, in Los Angeles' Memorial Coliseum with the Los Angeles Xtreme defeating the San Francisco Demons 38-6 for the only XFL championship.
Rules unique to the XFL included no fair catches on punts and kickoffs for the receiving team, no kicking of extra points after touchdowns, allowing a catch to be made with only one foot in-bounds, a shorter, 35 second play clock, and tweaks in overtime rules making them more similar to the college format without sudden-death. Additionally, the XFL was also known for the new camera angles and vantage points seen by television viewers. Some of these new techniques are now used in NFL and college broadcasts.
Additionally, players received bonuses for winning. For each victory during the regular season, players would divide $100,000 in bonus money. For the league champions, a $1 million bonus was divided evenly amongst players.
Probably the most famous aspect of the league was in its allowance of players to place nicknames on the back of their game jerseys. Although no Birmingham player took advantage of this, Las Vegas' Rod Smart gained national notoriety for having He Hate Me on the back of his jersey. Others also placed nicknames on their backs, but none became as famous as Smart.
Inception & Decline
The team was owned by a partnership between World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc. and NBC. Birmingham was announced as a XFL city on August 1, 2000. The name of the team, announced later that August, was initially to be the Birmingham Blast. However it was then changed to Thunderbolts after the Blast moniker did not have a warm reception with the community due to the events of the Civil Rights movement and the 1998 abortion clinic bombing.
The team's colors were purple, yellow, and white. Their logo was a stylized 'B' with six lightning bolts extending from it. The team was frequently referred to by fans and the media as the Bolts, with most team merchandise only using the Bolts moniker in lieu of Thunderbolts.
The general manager was Tim Berryman with Bob Gates serving as Director of Player personnel. Gerry Dinardo served as head coach. The team was assembled in October that year with the initial practices occurring on November 8.
It was announced on December 11 that all radio broadcasts would be on Classic Rock WZRR-FM 99.5. Rick Burgess and Bill Bussey of the Rick & Bubba Show served as the teams play-by-play announcers along with Jim Dunaway.
After the initial success of the opening weekend which saw large crowds and respectable television ratings, both rating and crowds would see a continual decline throughout the season. On May 10, the league disbanded after completing only one season.
2001 record (2-8-0)
- February 4: Lost 22-20 vs. Memphis Maniax. 35,321 curious fans turned out to witness the debut of Birmingham's XFL franchise. After being down 19-0 late in the first half, the Bolts would make a furious comeback attempt only to fall short 22-20 against visiting Memphis. Birmingham's first score came late in the second on a 15 yard Casey Weldon touchdown pass to Damon Gourdine. James Bostic would then cut the lead to 19-14 after a three yard touchdown run early in the third. The final score of the evening came late in the fourth on another touchdown pass from Weldon to Quincy Jackson. B'ham News - 2/5/2001
- February 11: Won 19-12 at New York/New Jersey Hitmen. Before 36,458 fans braving 6 degree wind chills in Giants Stadium, the visiting Bolts earned their first victory by a final score of 19-12. After a slow start, Birmingham would get on the board after Casey Weldon hit Quincy Jackson on a short pass in the second. Midway through the third, Stepfret Williams would return a punt 95 yard for a touchdown to give the visitors a 13-12 lead. In victory, both Williams and running back James Bostic would star in gaining 134 yards on eight catches and 102 yards on the ground respectfully. B'ham News - 2/12/2001
- February 18: Won 14-3 vs. Chicago Enforcers. Before 17,582 fans, the Bolts would win their second in a row in dramatic fashion against the visitors from Chicago. James Bostic would provide the afternoon’s only offensive touchdown late in the second on a two yard run. With just under two minutes remaining, Duane Butler would intercept an Enforcers pass and return it 95 yards for a touchdown to secure the win late. B'ham News - 2/19/2001
- February 24: Lost 30-6 at Orlando Rage. After a pair of consecutive victories, Birmingham would travel to the Citrus Bowl and suffer a resounding defeat by a final score of 30-6 before 21,947 fans. Birmingham's lone score came late in the fourth on a 36 yard touchdown pass from Casey Weldon to Quincy Jackson. B'ham News - 2/25/2001
- March 3: Lost 39-10 at San Francisco Demons. Before 33,403 fans in rain soaked Pacific Bell Park, the visitors from Birmingham would lose their second in a row 39-10. Coming in to relieve an ineffective Casey Weldon in the fourth, Jay Barker was successful in tossing the Bolts' lone touchdown of the evening after hitting Stepfret Williams for 92 yards late in the fourth. B'ham News - 3/4/2001
- March 11: Lost 35-26 vs. Los Angeles Xtreme. Nine unanswered points in the fourth by the visitors from LA resulted in a 35-26 defeat before only 11,197 fans at Legion Field. Before sustaining an injury late in the third, Casey Weldon passed for over 300 yards and three touchdown on a nine yard pass to Quincy Jackson on the opening drive, a short pass to James Bostic and an 80-yard bomb to Stepfret Williams. B'ham News - 3/12/2001
- March 17: Lost 34-12 at Las Vegas Outlaws. 22 unanswered points ruined Jay Barker's first start in a 34-12 defeat before 23,538 at Las Vegas' Sam Boyd Stadium. Brad Palazzo would score Birmingham's first and last points on a 37 yard field goal in the first and a 21 yard field goal in the third. Unable to score an offensive touchdown, Eric Sloan would score the Bolts lone touchdown in the second on a 70 yard interception return. Turnovers would prove costly for the visitors resulting in three Vegas touchdowns. B'ham News - 3/18/2001
- March 25: Lost 13-0 at Chicago Enforcers. Playing before 10,593 fans with a wind chill of 1 below, the visitors from Birmingham suffered their fifth loss in a row after this 13-0 shutout. Quarterback Jay Barker was knocked out of the contest in the second after a strong hit resulted in the first concussion of his professional career. B'ham News - 3/26/2001
- March 31: Lost 29-24 vs. Orlando Rage. Up 24-16 with just under three minutes remaining in the contest, the Bolts would suffer their sixth loss in a row after 13 late unanswered points catapulted the visitors to a 29-24 victory before 10,163 at Legion Field. Eric Sloan starred on defense in having three interceptions, including one returned 59 yards for a touchdown. B'ham News - 4/1/2001
- April 8: Lost 22-0 vs. New York/New Jersey Hitmen. Before 10,749 fans in Legion Field, the Bolts were shutout 22-0 in what was the final XFL game ever to have been played in Birmingham. B'ham News - 4/9/2001
- Rushing yards: 539, James Bostic
- Rushing touchdowns: 2, James Bostic
- Receiving yards: 827, Stepfert Williams
- Receptions: 51, Stepfert Williams
- Receiving touchdowns: 6, Quincy Jackson
- Passing yards: 1,238, Casey Weldon
- Interceptions: 4, Eric Sloan
- Tackles: 70, James Willis
- Sacks: 3 tie, Quinton Reese & Cedric Pittman
- Punt returns: 22 for 166 yards and a touchdown, Stepfert Williams
- Kickoff returns: 15 for 318 yards, Curtis Alexander
- Field goals: 7/14, Brad Palazzo
- James Willis was named the XFL's Defensive Player of the Year after having a league high 70 total tackles, including 10 for a loss.
- Gerry Dinardo, head coach
- Dave Arslanian, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
- Paul Arslanian, linebackers
- Mark Brady, wide receivers
- Lionel James, running backs
- Curley Hallman, co-defensive coordinator/defensive backs
- Woodrow Lowe, Jr., defensive assistant
- Rick Rhoades, offensive line
- Don Wnek, co-defensive coordinator/defensive line
- Andy Russ, #1, kicker
- Anthony Derricks, #3, centerback
- Damon Gourdine, #4, wide receiver
- Brad Palazzo, #5, kicker (averaged 36.2 yards on 40 punts)
- Jay Barker, #7, quarterback (completed 37 of 65 pass attempts for 425 yards and a single touchdown)
- Casy Weldon, #11, quarterback (completed 102 of 164 pass attempts for 1,228 yards and 7 touchdowns)
- Graham Leigh, #13, quarterback (completed 44 of 97 pass attempts for 499 yards and a single touchdown)
- Mark Washington, #16, quarterback
- Keith Franklin, #18, outside linebacker
- David Knott, #21, safety
- Sedrick Curry, #23, centerback
- Eric Hickson, #24, running back
- Carlos Jones, #26, centerback
- Chris Shelling, #27, defensive back
- Troy Davis, #28, running back
- Duane Butler, #31, safety
- Curtis Alexander, #32, running back
- James Bostic, #33, running back (rushed for 536 yards on 153 attempts for and average of 3.5 yards per carry and a long of 56 yards with a pair of rushing touchdowns; also caught 12 passes for 172 yards)
- Billy Gustin, #34, defensive back
- Tony McCall, #35, centerback
- Fred White, #36, centerback
- Eric Sloan, #37, centerback (had 4 interceptions with a pair returned for touchdowns)
- Calvin Jackson, #38, safety
- Nicky Savoie, #42, tight end
- Fred Perry, #44, outside linebacker
- James Willis, #50, linebacker
- Alonzo Gilbert, #53, offensive guard
- Patrick Scott, #55, outside linebacker
- Malcolm Hamilton, #56, linebacker
- Dion Foxx, #57, outside linebacker
- Charles Peterson, #58, defensive end
- Jamie Heiner, #59, linebacker
- Mike Mihelic, #60, offensive guard
- Justin Burroughs, #61, center
- Antonio Flemming, #63, offensive guard
- Ryan Thomassie, #65, center
- Matt Hogg, #66, offensive guard/center
- Jason McDonald, #70, offensive tackle
- Michael Lies, #71, offensive line
- Allen Mogridge, #75, center
- Mike Edwards, #77, offensive guard
- Ozell Powell, #78, offensive tackle
- Ed King, #79, offensive line
- Stepfert Williams, #80, wide receiver (caught 51 passes for 828 yards and a pair of touchdowns)
- Kaipo McGuire, #81, wide receiver (caught 23 passes for 191 yards)
- Quincy Jackson, #82, wide receiver (caught 45 passes for 531 yards and a 6 touchdowns)
- Joe Douglass, #83, wide receiver (caught 10 passes for 114 yards)
- Steve Smith, #84, wide receiver
- Kevin Drake, #85, wide receiver
- Ed Smith, #86, tight end (caught 25 passes for 195 yards and a single touchdown)
- Scott Thompson, #87, tight end
- Jahine Arnold, #88, wide receiver
- Alex Hass, #89, tight end
- Jarett Loggins, #90, defensive tackle
- Alton Weaver, #91, defensive tackle
- Kendrick Burton, #92, defensive end
- Johnny Mitchell, #94, defensive tackle
- Quinton Reese, #95, defensive end
- Jimmy Brumbaugh, #96, defensive tackle
- Cedric Pittman, #98, defensive end
- Eric Kerley, #99, defensive tackle
- Birmingham Thunderbolts (2001) Birmingham Thunderbolts 2001 Inaugural Media Guide.
- Birmingham News archives, 2001 editions, online search via LexisNexis database. Accessed November 5, 2006.