Birmingham Fire was a professional American football team based in Birmingham, Alabama that played in the World League of American Football in 1991 and 1992. The team played at Legion Field, and it made the playoffs in both seasons.
Gavin Maloof was the primary owner of the Fire. He had previously owned the Houston Rockets of the NBA. He hired long time NFL assistant Chan Gailey as head coach. The Fire also had one of the first African-American general managers in pro football, United Football League commissioner Michael Huyghue. Ronn Hollis was the Director of Communications.
The first game at Legion Field featured an attendance of over 53,000. The Fire lost to Montreal 20-5. Their second game, a 17-10 win against Sacramento, only drew 16,000. The game featured a 99 yard interception return for a touchdown, by free safety John Miller. The Fire got off to a 1-4 start, but clinched the North American West Division with a 5-5 record. They would lose in the playoffs to the Barcelona Dragons 10-3.
Five players were named to the All-WLAF Team:
John Brantley, LB, 1st Team
John Miller, FS, 1st Team
Darrell Phillips, NT, 2nd Team
John Holland, CB, 2nd Team
Kirk Maggio, P, 2nd Team
General Manager Michael Huyghue left to join the league's front office and was replaced by Rick Nichols. As for the team, the season started out the same way as the previous year. A loss to Sacramento on the road, followed by winning 4 of the next 6 games. Including a first ever road win in Europe, against the Frankfurt Galaxy. While in London, the Monarchs and Fire played to the only tie in league history. Birmingham finished up in second place in the division, but would once again lose in the playoffs, this time to Orlando.
John Brantley and John Miller repeated as All-WLAF members.
After the World Bowl, the league ceased operations in North America, and resurfaced years later as NFL Europe.
Life after the WLAF
Chan Gailey became the head coach at Samford University. When he left to re-enter the NFL, he was replaced by Fire offensive line coach Pete Hurt. Gailey went on to become the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Georgia Tech, and the Buffalo Bills.
Gavin Maloof would join his brother in becoming owners of the NBA's Sacramento Kings.
In 1995, the Fire nickname was resurrected in Düsseldorf, Germany as the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe.
Michael Huyghue worked in the front office of the Jacksonville Jaguars. As of November 2009, he is the Commissioner of the United Football League.
Birmingham only had 3 players from the state of Alabama on the team. Kicker Wyn Lyle from Auburn, on the 1991 team. Auburn's Craig Ogletree and Alabama's Phillip Doyle on the 92 team.
The Fire went through four General Managers in its two year history.
Wayne Rogers, who acted in the hit television series M*A*S*H, was rumored as a potential owner.