Pirates Hire Defensive Coordinator, Sign 3 Defensive Linemen
WORCESTER, MASS. - The Massachusetts Pirates have announced the signings of three defensive linemen and one defensive coach. Rayshaun Kizer was hired as defensive coordinator and secondary coach for the 2021 season. Kizer last coached for the Bismarck Bucks of the IFL in 2019, where he was defensive coordinator. When asked about joining the Pirates, Kizer spoke highly of the team. "It's a first class organization. They take care of both their players and coaches."
Kizer is excited about the Pirates transitioning to the IFL. "My first goal is establishing that we belong in this league. We have a good group of players and a coaching staff that's familiar with the IFL game."
Prior to coaching, Kizer played eleven years of professional football as a defensive back, which spanned from 2007-2017. He played in the CFL, CAFL, AF2 and AFL. In 2011, he set the AFL record for most interceptions in a single season with 16. Kizer compiled 67 career interceptions in eight AFL seasons, good for third most in AFL history.
The Pirates are bringing back J.D. Griggs and R.J. Roberts for their third seasons with the team, respectively. Griggs has combined for 18 sacks in 26 games with the Pirates and was named First-Team All-NAL in both 2018 and 2019. He spoke about the team's decision to bring in Kizer as defensive coordinator. "I met with Coach (Kizer) over the pandemic and we did some workouts together. He knows arena football and is an experienced coach, which is what we need."
Prior to joining the Pirates, Griggs was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2013. He has also played in the CFL and IFL. In 2017, he led the IFL in sacks and was named First-Team All-IFL with the Spokane Empire. Griggs finished his college career at the University of Akron and also played at Nassau Community College and the University of Iowa.
Roberts suited up for one game with the Pirates in 2019 and recorded a sack. In 2018, during his debut season with the team, Roberts notched 7.5 sacks in 4 games. The defensive lineman spoke very highly of Pirates' co-owner and president Jawad Yatim. "It's been a blessing since 2018 with Jawad. A lot of owners don't care like he does. Jawad really wants us to be great and reach our goals. He's a player's owner. I'm sure you've heard of a player's coach, well he's a player's owner."
Roberts started his professional career in the CFL and has also played in the AFL, FEFL and IFL. He played college football at Troy University.
The Pirates have also agreed to a contract with defensive lineman Youhanna Ghaifan, who last played for the University of Wyoming in 2018. In 2017, as a sophomore, Ghaifan was named First-Team All-Mountain West as he recorded 15.5 tackles for loss and 7 sacks. He signed a free agent contract with the Washington Redskins after going undrafted in the 2019 NFL Draft. Ghaifan has big goals for his inaugural season with the team. "First goal is to win a championship. I want to bring a championship to Worcester."
Pirates President and General Manager Jawad Yatim expressed the importance of solidifying the team's defensive front early on in free agency. "We put a heavy emphasis on play at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, and you can clearly see that as our first three signings on defense have been directed towards our front. JD is our franchise leader in sacks and has been our most consistent presence on that side of the ball since we began play in 2018. R.J. is as explosive and disruptive a defensive lineman as you'll see at this level and we are excited to see what he can do across a full season. Yoyo is a promising player in our eyes, accountable, wants to improve as a player and works at it everyday. This is a good start for us and we look forward to continuing to build our roster."
These signings come after the team announced the signings of wide receiver Thomas Owens and offensive lineman Chasz Wright last week.
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Massachusetts Pirates defensive lineman J.D. Griggs
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