Legends spend first practice in home stadium

By Jaylon Thompson / The Alliance

ATLANTA, Ga. – The vivid images of the Atlanta Braves playing at Turner Field still runs through the mind of Atlanta Legends cornerback Damian Swann.

ORLANDO, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 09: Matt Simms #4 of Atlanta Legends huddles with his team against the Orlando Apollos during the third quarter on February 09, 2019 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/AAF)

As a kid, he frequently visited the stadium to catch a glimpse of his favorite stars. Growing up in Atlanta, he remembers seeing the Braves quintet of Hall of Famers. Swann marveled at the feats of Chipper Jones, John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and legendary manager Bobby Cox.

Now Swann gets his chance on the same field.

The Legends start a west coast trip to face the San Diego Fleet on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET, 5 p.m. PT on NFL Network. The Legends home opener is Sunday, February 24, against the Birmingham Iron at 4 p.m. ET, 3 p.m. CT on CBS Sports Network. BUY TICKETS HERE.

“It means a lot playing in the city,” Swann said. “I am a local kid and I grew up 10-15 minutes from here. It’s fun as I admire those guys. I love baseball and being able to watch games was a big deal for me as a kid.”

On Thursday, the Legends practiced for the first time in their home stadium. Turner Field was sold to Georgia State University in 2016 and re-purposed for football. Along with it came a new name as the Legends will play home at Georgia State Stadium.

While the name is different, the history of the hallowed grounds remains the same.

The stadium was home to the Braves and the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. It also hosted the 2000 Major League Baseball All-Star Game and several concerts.

Across the street, the stadium footprint saw classic feats. Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. Famous boxer Muhammad Ali carried the Olympic Torch into the stadium.

Each case was simply legendary. After practice, Legends head coach Kevin Coyle reminded his players of those facts and wanted them to write the next chapter.

“This is a place where a lot of history has been made,” Coyle told the team. “We are going to have a chance to make some history this year. It starts with how we play against San Diego this weekend. We have a chance to come back here and show the fans of Atlanta what we are all about.”

The Legends prepared well in their final practice tuneup. The offense hit on several big plays and the defense made strides in the run game.

Everyone enjoyed playing in their new digs. Many players said being on the field helped put the season into perspective. They want to win in San Diego and bring that momentum home.

“It’s surreal to be out here playing football,” Legends offensive lineman Matthew Schmidt said. “Not one time did I think I would be out here on that field playing. To be here with the Legends has been awesome. The field has a real football feel to it.”

The Legends aim to make plenty of memories this season. It’s been a good week of practice and the team feels confident heading out west.

“Every game is important,” Coyle said. “This one is particularly important based on how we started the year. We know the task at hand and what we got to do.”

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