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Iron TE Weslye Saunders Working To 'Earn His Stripes' During Training Camp

January 14, 2019 - Alliance of American Football (AAF) - Birmingham Iron News Release

SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Birmingham Iron tight end Weslye Saunders believes he is now at his peak mentally and physically. As a young player, Saunders recalled playing in the NFL and not properly understanding the benefits of proper nutrition or why it was important to say even-keeled emotionally. Now at 29, Saunders is the "old head" of his position group as he works to restart his professional football career.

"I believe I'm a totally different player than I was the last time I was on a football field," Saunders said. "This feels like a completely new start."

Saunders wasn't with the team during minicamp so the 6-foot-5 tight end is working to "earn of stripes" amongst the team during training camp. He's done a good job of that so far, and Iron coach Tim Lewis has been impressed.

"(He's looked) fantastic. Exactly what we thought he would look like," Lewis said. "He's a very talented athlete. He's a gifted tight end, a gifted player. I can't wait to see him in action."

Below is the transcript of Saunders' interview with Iron team reporter Marq Burnett following Day 9 of training camp.

On getting acclimated in camp...

Saunders: "Football is football at the end of the day. To have this opportunity for a bunch of guys who wouldn't have had one otherwise makes it that much more special. Just to be here with seven other teams grinding for the same purpose is a really momentous occasion."

On his playing style as a tight end...

Saunders: "I would like to think I'm an all-around tight end. A lot of guys usually go to one side or the other as far as blocking and catching are concerned, but I want to make my focal point being able to do everything so I don't have to come off the field."

On how he views himself as a receiver...

Saunders: "Oh, I'm a dynamic receiver. I don't want to toot my own horn, but I like to be able to make plays for the quarterback even when there are none. I like to use the size that the good Lord has given me to my advantage on this football field. That's one of the places you can do that."

On what it's been like to work with the Iron tight end unit...

Saunders: "It's been great working with these guys. I'm the old head now all of a sudden at 29 years old. Being able to coach some of these guys up and seeing that rigor and determination out here is rubbing off on myself. Being able to go out here and work under (tight ends/special teams coordinator) Coach Ray (Rychleski) who I had as a tight end coach at the University of South Carolina has been pretty special as well."

On being reunited with his former college coach Ray Rychleski...

Saunders: "I believe I'm able to handle him a lot better 10 years later than I was back in college. He's a great guy. He has our best interest at heart, and he's doing a great job on the special teams side as well as the tight ends."

On how good he believes the Iron tight end unit can be...

Saunders: "This one of the best groups on the offense and on the team as far as being able to pick up a workload quickly, being able to handle blocking and catching responsibilities. As they say, the tight end position is one of the hardest positions on the field. You have to be cerebral to play this position so (offensive coordinator) Coach (Steve) Logan has a lot of faith in us."

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