The Albany Firebirds came into existence April 19,
1990 when Arena Football Commissioner and Founder Jim Foster presented co-owners Joe
O'Hara and Glenn Mazula with an Arena Football liscense. Rick Buffington, assistant coach
under legendary Vito "Babe" Parilli at New England and Denver, was named the
teams's first head coach.
The city of Albany had been on the mind of the AFL for over
three years, after Albany County Executive Jim Coyne met with Foster on the eve of
Arenabowl '87. After the construction of the new Knickerbocker Arena, Arenaball could be
played in Albany.
The Firebirds completed their inaugural season (1990) tied for fourth place with
the Pittsburgh Gladiators (now the Tampa Bay Storm) with a 3-5 mark. The sport was a huge
success in the Capital District as the Firebirds finished third in league attendance with
an average of 10,143 fans.
The 1991 season proved even more successful for the game Firebirds with attendance
climbing to over 11,000 fans per game and a near trip to the Arenabowl finals. The team
went 6-4 during the regular season and made it to the playoff semi-finals where they were
defeated by defending champs, the Detroit Drive, 37-35.
In January of 1992, a change in the Firebirds organization was announced when
O'Hara sold his rights to Mazula due to conflicting interests with his new position as
President of the AFL. In Mazula's first year as sole owner, attendance again skyrocketed
to an average of 12,381. The Firebirds finished the regular season at 5-5 and played in
their first-ever home playoff game, a 48-45 loss to the Dallas Texans.
The 1993 season saw the Firebirds finish the regular season 5-7 before losing in
the first round of the playoffs at Tampa Bay. Their powerfuloffense broke the Arena League
record for pass attempts in a season (455) while ranking third in net yards and fifth in
total offensive net yardage.
In 1994, the Albany Firebirds had their best season in team history under first
year Head Coach Mike Hohensee finishing at 10-2 and winning the American Conference
Championship. The 'Birds had the league's top-ranked offense averaging 53.5
points-per-game. Eddie Brown established himself as the premier offensive specialist in
the league as he set Arena League records for touchdowns (48), points (288) and receptions
(101). At the gate, the Firebirds established single-game (13,652) and single-season
(74,106) attendance records. Overall, the Firebirds set or tied 15 Arena League records
and 49 franchise marks. Brown was named the league's MVP, Mazula was Owner-of-the-Year.
In 1995, the Firebirds went 7-5 and captured the
Eastern Division title. The high-octane offense broke their own Arena League season
scoring mark with 649 points (54.1 points-per-game) and tied the league mark for points in
a game with 82 versus Miami. The offensive line allowed only two sacks of the league's
top-rated quarterback, Mike Perez, who set franchise marks for passing yards in a season
and completion percentage. He also established himself as Albany's all-time passing
The Firebirds equaled their franchise record in wins during the 1996 season, going
10-4 and winning the Eastern Division title. Led by quarterback Mike Perez and OS Eddie
Brown, the Firebirds re-wrote the record books. Perez became the only quarterback to pass
for 4,000 yards (4,153) and set the record for Touchdown passes (84). The Firebirds
continued their offensive dominance averaging 62.4 points-per-game, including a league
record 88 points versus Charlotte. Eddie Brown again set the league record for points in a
season (308) and touchdowns (51). Brown also set league records for points in a game (54),
touchdowns in a game (9) and receiving touchdowns in a game (7). The Firebirds earned a
home playoff game defeating Milwaukee (79-58) in the first round. They then advanced to
the league semi-finals for the third straight season where they lost to Iowa (62-55) in
PAWLAWSKI ENTERS THE RECORD BOOK:
The Firebirds traded All-Arena QB Mike
Perez during the off-season in an attempt to bolster the defense with draft picks. Albany
knew that they had a good young back-up quarterback in Mike Pawlawski.
Pawlawski proved to the organization that they will have a talented QB to run the
offense starting in the 1998 season. Pawlawski had a record setting performance with what
may be the best quarterback showing in the 11 year existence of the league.
Among his accomplishments this season were that he set a league record for passing yards
in a seasons (4,272), yards passing in a game (455), most passes attempted in season
(509), most passes completed in a season (351), and highest completion percentage in a
Pawlawski also broke team records including most passes completed in a game (35), most
touchdown passes in a game (9).
Pawlawski was also became the quarterback with the highest passer rating in league history
with a 122.6 which broke the record of 121.2 set by Ben Bennett in 1994.
Eddie Brown once again had a tremendous season as he caught a
league record 135 passes for 1,650 yards and 35 touchdowns.
Chad Dukes re-wrote the Firebirds rushing records this season
as he ran fan a team record 364 yards with a team record 17 rushing touchdowns. He
averaged an amazing 6.6 yards per carry. Dukes led the Arena Football League in rushing.
RECEIVERS, RECEIVERS, RECEIVERS!
Besides Eddie Brown, the Firebirds showed a strong receiving
corp as Mike Baker, Greg Hopkins and David McLeod made it all look easy.
Hopkins in his second season had a career high 156 yards receiving in last weeks loss to
Iowa. He also had a career high 11 receptions and four touchdowns in the July 6th game
versus the New York CityHawks. Hopkins was second on the team in receiving yards with 908
total yards and 15 TDs.
Mike Baker concluded the season as the second leading receiver with 73 receptions for 709
yards and 4TDS.
In his rookie season, Derek Stingley showed that he has what
it takes to be a Defensive Specialist in the Arena Football League. Stingley led the
Firebirds in tackles with 81 (3rd in the league), and was tied for the team lead in
interception (4). Stingley is a strong candidate for the 1997 AFL Rookie of the Year
The Firebirds have many positives to look forward to in the
1998 season including QB Mike Pawlawski, OS Eddie Brown, David McLeod, Greg Hopkins and
Albany will look to make improvements in their defense and special teams during the