Former Shaw and Columbus Lions teammates Damian Daniels and Troy Bergeron will be playing together again, this time in the Arena Football league.
Daniels and Bergeron have signed with the Cleveland Gladiators and will be joined in the league by a pair of Lions offensive linemen from the 2010 season. Dion Small signed with the Georgia Force and Terrance Crosby signed with the Iowa Barnstormers.
Lions coach Jason Gibson said he expected as many as three more players from Columbus’ 2010 Southern Indoor Football League championship team to sign with AFL teams in the near future, but said he could not name them because they had not yet signed contracts.
Daniels spent the previous four seasons as a Lions defensive back. He won defensive player of the year honors three times and in three different leagues while intercepting more than 50 passes to become a fan favorite.
“I just felt like it was my time,” Daniels said. “I spent the last four years making plays, and I just felt like it was time to take it to the next level.”
Daniels said he called Bergeron this summer to see if the former indoor star could help him get signed only to find Bergeron was anticipating a move back to the AFL, too.
The pair set out to get signed together and found a coach happy to do that in Cleveland.
Daniels will be difficult to replace, Gibson said.
“Damian has been the best defensive back in every league we have played in, and everybody in every league knew it,” Gibson said. “Losing him is going to be tough on us. He’s been (with the Lions) every year I’ve been here, so I don’t know what it’s like to coach here without him.”
Bergeron was the AFL Rookie of the Year in 2005 and in 2006 spent the NFL preseason with the Atlanta Falcons and then the final leg of the season on the Buffalo Bills’ practice squad. He returned to the Force in 2007 and 2008 and then, when the AFL announced it would fold for the 2009 season, he signed with the Lions.
Bergeron’s stint in Columbus did not last long, however, as the Falcons signed him to a practice squad deal. He was called up to the active roster several times and spent the 2010 preseason with Atlanta, but did not make the final cut.
Bergeron has 4,375 receiving yards and 96 touchdowns in three seasons in the AFL.
In addition to losing a key defensive cog in Daniels, the Lions have two big spots to fill on the offensive line.
Crosby signed with the Lions late in the season but had an immediate impact on the offensive line as the Lions never lost a game with him in the lineup on their path to a league championship.
And without Small, a 2010 All-SIFL first-team selection, Gibson said he has some recruiting to do.
“Losing two starting offensive linemen is a huge blow,” Gibson said. “Once we signed Crosby, we solidified a really good offensive line. That’s going to be hard to replace.”
Chris White, 706-571-8571; follow Chris online at twitter.com/le_chriswhite.