- 1987 Arena Football League season
The 1987 Arena Football League season was the 1st season, also known as the "demonstration season", of the
Arena Football League. The league champions were the Denver Dynamite, who defeated the Pittsburgh Gladiators in ArenaBowl I.
The Arena Football League played its inaugural season in 1987 with four teams to introduce the sport to the American public. The
Chicago Bruisers, Denver Dynamite, Pittsburgh Gladiators and Washington Commandoscomprised the 4-team league that ran a schedule from mid-June to August 1. The AFL drew an impressive average of 11,000 fans per game and TV coverage on ESPN. The four teams Denver(12,098/game), Pittsburgh(11,962), Washington(11,525) and Chicago(8,638) drew fairly well in their respective facilities. Denver played out of the old McNichols Arena, Pittsburgh in the Civic Arena, Washington at the Capital Centrein Landover, Marylandand Chicago at the Rosemont Horizon in Rosemont, Illlinois.
The AFL kicked off on Friday,
June 19, 1987when the host Pittsburgh Gladiators hosted the Washington Commandos at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh before 12,177 fans.
AFL football officially began at 7:37 pm EDT that night when Washington's
Dale Castrokicked the ball into the slack net (the mesh between the field goal posts) resulting in a touchback. The Gladiators took over on their own five-yard line. The very first play from scrimmage saw Pittsburgh quarterback Mike Hohenseehit WR/DB Russell Hairstonon a 45-yard touchdown pass; the play would set the tone for the league's wide-open, high-scoring mandate that the game's inventor, James Foster, envisioned. Washington, however, went on to win the game 48-46 in the final minutes.
The head coaches of the four AFL teams in 1987 were former CFL great
Ray Jauch(Chicago), current AFL coach Tim Marcum(Denver), Joe Haering(Pittsburgh) and Bob Harrison(Washington).
Some of the notable performers for Chicago in 1987 included QB
Mike Hold, FB/LB Billy Stone, WR Reggie "Super Gnat" Smith, DB Durwood Roquemoreand future NFL head coach QB Sean Payton, who saw limited action during the season.
The Denver Dynamite would also featured a backup QB that would go onto an NFL head coaching career:
Marty Mornhinweg, who backed up Whit Taylor. Also on the Dynamite roster that year was FB/LB Rob DeVita, WR Durrell Taylorand future AFL Hall of Fame WR Gary Mullen.
Continuing the theme of quarterbacks who would go onto future coaching opportunities was Gladiators QB Mike Hohensee, who yielded the starting role with Pittsburgh early in the season to
Brendan Folmar. Hohensee would return to the ArenaBowl nineteen years later in July 2006 by capturing ArenaBowl XXas head coach of the Chicago Rush.
Gladiators WR Russell Hairston had a 67 catches in 1987, good for 1,126 yards and 18 touchdowns (in just 6 games) and would go onto win AFL MVP honors. Also notable on the Pittsburgh roster was DB
Mike Stoopswho went onto to coach the University of Arizonain 2005.
The Washington Commandos featured a high-scoring unit that had WR
Dwayne Dixon(68 catches, 11 TDs) and QB Rich Ingold, who led the AFL with 29 TD passes and 1,726 yards. ArenaBowl Ithat year featured the Gladiators hosting the Dynamite at Civic Arena; the Pittsburgh fans, however, went home disappointed as the Dynamite walked away with a 45-16 victory, a win that was the first of seven ArenaBowl titles for Denver coach Tim Marcum.
* "Green indicates clinched playoff berth"
* "Purple indicates best regular season record"
# of Teams Expansion Teams Folded Teams Suspended Teams Returning Teams Relocated Teams Name Changes 4 Chicago Bruisers Denver Dynamite
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