HELMET HUT would like to thank Greg Allred (picture below) for his assistance in the compilation of the material for the BIRMINGHAM VULCANS. Mr. Allred’s website contains much information on the WFL Birmingham teams.
Other than the Memphis Southmen the Birmingham Vulcans of the New League, Inc. World Football League was the team that had a viable chance to succeed as an NFL expansion franchise. They consistently put people in the seats in both 1974 and ’75, maintained a cohesive coaching staff and unit of players on both sides of the ball, had a solid “football operations” and personnel group, and at least in their 1975 incarnation, were financed to the extent that they should have received the consideration that Seattle and Tampa Bay received. However it was not to be and like the other WFL franchises, the Vulcans were a cherished memory and two-time league champions when the curtain came down for the final time.
Bill Putnam had gone into the 1974 season as one of Gary Davidson’s “main guys” and it was never clear just how much the price tag had been for the franchise that Putnam received. With no chance of success in Atlanta due to the foothold of the NFL Falcons, Putman looked to local investors in Birmingham, always a red-hot football area. Thus were born the Birmingham Americans that proved to be one of the best run on-the-field franchises. Although he consistently cried about not having enough local investment Putnam spent a great deal of money, especially on bonuses to future Americans players that led to the team’s bankruptcy. As Putnam and his front office bragged, “It has been established without a doubt that the Birmingham Americans have the talent to win in 1974 in this inaugural season of the World Football League. But, what about the future? It’s well taken care of, thank you.” That future would see established NFL stars wearing Birmingham red, white, and blue. Defensively they had signed Pittsburgh Steeler defensive end and future Hall Of Famer L.C. Greenwood; Pat Toomay, another defensive end, from the Dallas Cowboys; cornerback Ray Easterling of the Falcons and as they publicly stated “a couple of guys that will remain nameless at this point at their request.” On the other side of the line of scrimmage commitments were made by Lion receiver Ron Jessie, Falcon tight end Jim Mitchell, and Cowboy running back Mike Montgomery. Coincidentally all but Jessie were southerners by birth who also played their collegiate ball at southern schools. The bombshell of course was 1976 future quarterback Ken “The Snake” Stabler, a genuine Alabama folk hero. Stabler was the leader of some of the greatest of all Alabama teams under coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and his partying, swinging, wild lifestyle and swaggering on-the-field exploits with the Oakland Raiders made him a fan darling. Slated for 1976 was the Cowboy duo of Jethro Pugh and Rayfield Wright which made the Americans’ commitment to the future financially heavy indeed, perhaps as extensive as the Memphis price tag for the Miami Dolphin trio of Csonka, Kiick, and Warfield. It was known that Memphis was getting contributions from each team and the league to bring in their trio of superstars but Putnam overextended for the benefit of his own team and had the responsibility of payment all to himself. MORE...
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