In turns out receiver Justin Watson is not the only former Penn football player drafted into a professional football league in 2018 — though it's probably not the league you’re thinking of.
Record-setting quarterback and 2016 graduate Alek Torgersen was selected by the Birmingham Iron in the fourth and final round of the Alliance of American Football (AAF) quarterback draft. Each of the eight teams in the league picked four quarterbacks, with the Iron selecting Luis Perez (Texas A&M-Commerce), Blake Sims (Alabama), and Scott Tolzien (Wisconsin) in the first three rounds.
Football fans are likely most familiar with Sims and Tolzien. Sims started at Alabama for one season, leading the Crimson Tide to the No. 4 ranking in the final AP poll of the 2014 season. Tolzien was a two-year starter at Wisconsin, with a record of 21-5, and led the Badgers to a Rose Bowl appearance in 2010. He then went on to spend seven years in the NFL, primarily as a backup, throwing two touchdowns and nine interceptions in 10 career games.
Perez won the Harlon Hill trophy, D-II football’s version of the Heisman Trophy, as a senior in 2017 and spent training camp this past summer with the Los Angeles Rams.
Torgersen, Penn’s career leader in completion percentage (65.1) and passing touchdowns (52), has not yet indicated whether he will sign, though earning the starting job could be an uphill climb.
Torgersen spent part of this offseason on the Arizona Cardinals before getting waived in on May 8. Torgersen has spent time on the practice squads of the Atlanta Falcons, Washington Redskins, and Detroit Lions, but has not made an official 53-man roster at any of his stops.
League co-founder and former Bills and Colts general manager Bill Polian told ESPN that players will receive a non-guaranteed contract worth up to an average of $250,000 over three years. Though it's far less than the NFL minimum salary of $450,000 for players on the active roster, a potential salary of roughly $83,000 per year could allow him to chase his pro football dream for a few more seasons.
The AAF will begin its inaugural season in 74 days, one week after the Super Bowl. Regardless of whether Torgersen plays or makes the roster, a Penn alum will still be involved in the upstart league. Wharton MBA graduate and former NFL All-Pro Justin Tuck is on the Player Engagement Board of Advisors.
It might not have the glitz and glamour of the NFL, but Torgersen could have the opportunity to attract the attention of NFL scouts once again with strong performances.