Former UConn quarterback David Pindell has been on quite a journey since graduating in 2019, but now he is finally back on the field playing for the fans — literally.
Pindell is the quarterback for the Glacier Boyz of Fan Controlled Football, a new seven-on-seven league based in Atlanta where fans call the plays through an app in real time. Yes, the fans watching on Twitch get to vote on what play a team should run next. The quarterbacks’ coach then gathers the results of the vote on an iPad and relays the winning play his players through the microphones in their helmets. It’s a bizarre twist on America’s most popular sport.
Even though it’s not quite what Pindell had in mind for his first professional snap in a live game, he’s making the most of the opportunity and having a good time.
“I enjoy it,” Pindell said. “I just missed being able to have that camaraderie with the guys and being around practice competing, trash talking and stuff like that … It’s fun just being out there playing football.”
Pindell has waited far too long for that. When he left UConn, he had the expectation that he would play professional football. He had just set school records for rushing yards (1,139) and touchdowns (10) by a quarterback in a single season, and he added almost 2,000 yards and 19 touchdowns through the air as well. He had also been in contact with multiple NFL teams ahead of the draft.
“The likely chance of me getting signed to a team was pretty high,” Pindell said he was told. “They said I could go from [a] late seventh-round draft pick to a priority free agent signing.”
But neither of those things happened. Pindell did get a couple of brief opportunities, but nothing panned out. He was invited to mini-camps with the Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who wanted him to play other positions like running back, wide receiver and punt returner. Pindell tried his best, but having never played those positions before, he ended up getting cut.
“I had no background or no knowledge of the running back position or receiver in terms of playing it,” Pindell said. “I didn’t even know how to take a handoff. I didn’t even know how to catch punts and stuff like that … It was like, dang. It felt like all that draft training went to waste, because all that training as a quarterback just for me not even to be able to show one small snap as a quarterback. It was a little frustrating.”
But Pindell never stopped training and was always driven by the goal of playing at the next level. For those who know him best like Chris Brooks, Pindell’s trainer and mentor since high school, that came as no surprise.
“David is a hard worker,” Brooks said. “I like his path. It probably could have been a little better, but you got to take advantage of the opportunities and situations that come to you. At no point in time would David ever let his hard work be relinquished.”
“I was like you know what? I’ll just do it because I’m not losing out on anything else … It’s Quavo, a big-time name, and they pay. So even if it’s good or bad football, I’m getting paid to play football. I got down here, and it’s somewhat decent football.”David Pindell
Pindell did get an opportunity as quarterback when the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL signed him at the end of the 2019 season. He was the team’s backup for the final three games, but he never actually got to play and was released following the season. He continued to train and was scheduled to work out for the Dallas Renegades of the XFL and a few other CFL teams when COVID-19 hit and put everything on hold.
During the pandemic, Pindell got a job at a warehouse company but continued to work out as much as he could. He posted all his training videos on social media, hoping somebody would notice.
Well, it turns out somebody did notice. In early 2021, rapper Quavo, best known as one of the members of Migos, messaged Pindell on Instagram asking him to join his team in FCF. Pindell was hesitant when he saw how different the league was — only seven players, a 50-yard field, no special teams, etc. At first, he made up excuses to not play because he thought it was a fake league, but when Quavo was persistent, he decided to give it a shot.
“I was like you know what? I’ll just do it because I’m not losing out on anything else,” Pindell said. “It’s Quavo, a big-time name, and they pay. So even if it’s good or bad football, I’m getting paid to play football. I got down here, and it’s somewhat decent football.”
There are some big names attached to this league. Besides Quavo, other owners of teams include former WNBA star Renee Montgomery, former NFL star Marshawn Lynch and current NFL cornerback Richard Sherman, who is actually a co-owner of Pindell’s Glacier Boyz. Notable players include former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, former Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois and former All-Pro receiver Josh Gordon. The pay is pretty good as well. Pindell makes $1,450 a week as a starting quarterback plus bonuses for things like winning the game or being the game’s MVP.
Pindell has performed well in the league’s first season. He actually scored the first touchdown in FCF history, a nifty 10-yard run through defenders that brought him back to his days at UConn. Overall, in the four-game regular season, he rushed for 135 yards and three touchdowns and threw for 176 yards and four touchdowns. He helped lead the Glacier Boyz to an appearance in the league’s first championship game, deemed “The People’s Championship,” where they lost to the Wild Aces.
Pindell is hopeful that his play will open up another opportunity at a higher level, but he knows that may not happen because the league is so different.
“I’m a realist, I’m real with myself,” Pindell said. “The stuff we do here in terms of quarterback play, I wouldn’t say it’s as real as 11-on-11 … So I would say it’s kind of hard to get film from this, but at the end of the day, you still got to make plays and stuff, so that’s what I try to do.”
Pindell has been living in the FCF bubble at a hotel in Atlanta. He said the players spend all their time in the hotel except when they go to the practice facility or to Infinite Energy Arena, where the games are held. At the hotel, he said the players can hang out in the ballroom and play games, or they can go to the weight room and work out. But, a lot of time he just relaxes in his room. He said he doesn’t mind it at all. He’s just taking this opportunity for what it is.
The biggest difference in Pindell’s attitude now compared to when he left UConn is that he’s no longer depending on football for stability in life. The reason for that is because he has found new passions: teaching and coaching. Between a couple of his football gigs back in 2019, Pindell had the opportunity to help coach football at his alma mater, Oakland Mills High School in Columbia, MD, where he also got to serve as a substitute teacher.
“I never imagined myself teaching, but when I did it, I realized how fun it is and how much I enjoy being around kids and talking to them,” Pindell said.
Brooks believes that Pindell would thrive in that type of coach/teacher role because of his leadership skills.
“His best attribute is that he is a great leader,” Brooks said. “I think leadership isn’t just vocal. It’s physical, vocal, doing the right things. That’s what allows you to be a great mentor.”
It seems like Pindell has found his calling whenever his football career is over, but that hasn’t happened just yet. Pindell said he will continue to chase his NFL dream for the rest of this year, with a specific focus on the XFL’s return in 2022 for his next opportunity. If that doesn’t work out, then he said he’ll be ready to hang up the cleats and move on to his next chapter with no anxiety.
“I want to play football to have fun, and I know there’s something else that I can do as far as teaching and training kids,” Pindell said. “If football doesn’t work out, I’ll be stable doing that.”