Aaron Aiken and Demry Croft to Battle for QB1 in San Diego

San Diego has a quarterback battle on its hands for 2023. With training camp quickly approaching, the San Deigo Strike Force has opened up their quarterback position to a competition. With Demry Croft being added via trade just weeks ago, Aiken has reportedly been signed via free agency. Suddenly San Diego has the tallest quarterback room in the Indoor Football League.

Twin Towers at Quarterback

The IFL has always been a league that has been open to players that lack NFL-level size at their position. Guys like Tj Edwards at 6’0, and Darius James-Peterson at 5’11 aren’t overlooked as options strictly because of their size. In the NFL, most teams would be looking at these guys as scat-backs, or slot receivers due to their lack of prototypical height. San Diego says to hell with that method.

San Diego has quickly built a quarterback room that not only holds two of the tallest players at the position in the IFL, but it would also be one of the larger quarterback rooms when compared to most NFL locker-rooms as well. With Croft standing 6’6 230 lbs, and Aiken 6’5 240 lbs, both men bring NFL caliber size to the quarterback position. However, at times throwing the ball wasn’t where they saw the majority of their playing time.

College Career

Aaron Aiken was once asked to move to wide receiver in college due to his size and athleticism. He arrived at Georgetown University as a 6’5 230 pound quarterback, a position he would play sparingly for the first few years of his stay at Georgetown. In 2010 he red-shirted with the school hoping to develop him more as a passer before he ultimately joined the roster in 2011. In 2011 he would see action in four games, but ultimately serve most of the season as the third-string quarterback behind Scott Darby and Isaiah Kempf. In 2012 the competition became even deeper despite Darby graduating.

The fourth-string QB in 2011, Stephen Skon returned for his second season with the school, while freshmen Kyle Nolan, and Jeffery Burke joined the program. They also had Jeffrey Burke playing some quarterback that season as well, who had previously played wide receiver and defensive back. Despite these additions at quarterback, Aaron Aiken saw time, appearing in 7 games, starting 4. He would complete 52 of 110 passing attempts for 501 yards, 2 touchdowns to 4 interceptions. However, he displayed his running abilities at every turn, collecting 263 yards rushing and 1 touchdown. This included a 100-yard rushing game in Early September.

Athleticism Leads to Opportunities at Other Positions

Fast forward to 2013, and three more freshmen coming in only created a cloudy forecast when projecting playing time at quarterback for Aiken. This prompted a move to wide receiver at 6’5 235 lbs. Although his stat line wasn’t exactly earth-shattering, he still managed to catch 3 passes on the year. After this season, Aiken decided to transfer and ended up following his former QB coach and offensive coordinator at Georgetown to his new school Coastal Carolina. While Aiken was listed as a quarterback, you could have likely called him a running back due to his role in the offense. Despite attempting just one pass, Aiken ran the ball 16 times for 32 yards and 2 touchdowns. Aiken didn’t see the field as a wide receiver either strictly coming off the bench as the QB3 to run the ball.

Alternative League Veteran

The first information I could find about Aiken joining an alternative league was with the FXFL. Ironically enough this was a Brian Woods-led league, the first of his football league launches. Not only did this cause him to cross paths with Woods, but he also met current Tulsa Oilers head coach Marvin Jones and Terry Shea the head coach in the 2015 season. He would win two championships with the Brooklyn Bolts in the FXFL before making the move to the indoor game.

Long Indoor Football League Career

Aiken’s first season with the IFL came way back in 2016. He signed with the Spokane Empire and head coach Adam Shackleford who was the winningest coach in Spokane Shock history. At that point, the IFL was just a four-team league with dreams of someday rivaling the AFL.

Aiken played in 6 games, attempting 8 passes completing 4 for 25 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. He added 2 carries for 1 yard. After the 2016 season, Aiken instead joined the Colorado Crush, under his former coach with the FXFL, Marvin Jones who was now the defensive coordinator, and later the interim head coach of the Crush.

This would be the final season of the Crush’s existence. The Crush won just three games that year, losing five games by five points or less. Unfortunately, Aiken would land on the injured reserve list but only after he got to start a March game against the Arizona Rattlers. He was able to complete 15 of 27 passes for 116 yards 1 td, and 1 int, adding 12 carries for 71 yards and 1 touchdown.

Jumping to the CIF

In 2018 Aiken landed with the Bismarck Bucks during their last season in the Champions Indoor Football League. Aiken played in 8 games completing 88 of 167 attempts for 1,018 yards, 18 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. He would add 98 yards rushing and 7 touchdowns on the ground. Leading the team in points scored.

First Taste of the NAL

He began the 2021 season playing in 2 games for the Green Bay Blizzard attempting 35 passes, completing 15 of them for 139 yards 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions adding 9 carries for 45 yards on the ground. He would rebound with the Carolina Cobras, and Green Bay Blizzard in 2021.

With the NAL he managed to lead his team to the playoffs losing to the eventual champions the Albany Empire. This wound up being one of his better seasons on record. He would play in 4 games, tossing 13 touchdowns, and adding another 4 on the ground. He also managed to average 200 yards passing per game, and another 50 yards rushing per game for roughly 1,000 yards and 17 touchdowns in just a 4-game stretch. He went 2-2 in this stretch with a team that had begun the season 1-4. Aiken turned around an ailing franchise and led them to prominence in just four games. What can he do in 2023 with a full season in San Diego?

Back to the IFL

After this Aiken joined the Quad City Steamwheelers for the first time in 2022. He would appear in four games as a passer to begin the season. Attempting 42 passes he completed 21 of them for 188 yards, 3 touchdowns to just 1 interception, doing most of his damage on the ground with 34 carries for 163 yards and 4 touchdowns through nine appearances.

Now signing with the San Diego Strike Force, Aiken has a chance to win the starting job given his experience he is clearly the veteran option for San Diego. His main competition is Demry Croft, a man who is much less experienced in the indoor game. Both of these quarterbacks are dual-threat players, and I expect to see both involved, even if one of them is the primary quarterback. Neither of them were starters in 2022, so they both would welcome the playing time even if it was in a two-quarterback system. This might arguably be the best way to get both of these dynamic players involved in the offense. Maybe we even see Aiken catch a pass from Croft at some point this season?

Also check out our Roster Breakdown Series:

Frisco Fighters

Bismark Bucks

Duke City Gladiators

San Diego Strike Force

Bay Area Panthers

Iowa Barnstormers

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