Soto To Play For AAF’s Fleet
When he signed his deal with the San Diego Fleet of the Alliance of American Football League, Shakir Soto was not guaranteed a spot on the opening day roster. If Soto was going to have a chance to continue on reaching his goal of getting back into an NFL training camp, he was going to have to earn it. On Wednesday, Soto, a GAR and University of Pittsburgh grad learned he made the Fleet’s final 52-man roster after going through nearly a month long, league-wide training camp, in San Antonio, Texas. After camp broke Wednesday, Soto and the rest of the team flew back to San Diego to prepare for the season opener slated for Feb. 9. “It feels good, just keeping my dream alive to get back to the NFL,” Soto said in a phone interview Thursday night. “This is a developmental league, and it will help players like myself develop and hopefully get a shot to get back to the big show.” This will be the first year of the league’s existence, and during training camp, where every team trained in the same spot, representatives from several NFL organizations stopped in to check on the talent that was there. It is all part of the process that Soto hopes will lead to an NFL camp. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Denver Broncos in 2017 after graduating from Pitt, and this past summer was in camp with the Oakland Raiders. In 2017 he was signed to Oakland’s practice squad near the end of the season, which gave him an opportunity to head to training camp with the Raiders prior to the 2018 season on the 90-man roster. Soto will play defensive tackle for the Fleet, and will be considerably bigger than when he was in camp with the Raiders. Soto said he bulked up to 305 pounds, something he believes will help play on the interior of the defensive line. Previously, he played between 290-295 pounds. “When I was with Denver and Oakland I was always the smallest defensive tackle by about 15 to 20 pounds,” Soto said. “I talked to people and coaches in the NFL and they also agreed it would make a big difference with my weight. When I first got to 300 pounds it was tough. I wasn’t used to carrying that much weight around. I am better with it now that I have adjusted.” With the new league hopefully serving as a stepping stone for players to catch the eye of an NFL executive, Soto is not locked in to his contract with the Fleet. If an NFL organization approaches him about joining a team, he can leave the Fleet at anytime. That was something that was ironed out before he signed his deal. “I’m looking at this as an opportunity to create more film for NFL teams to see,” Soto said. “I’m looking forward to getting out there and playing in games again. I think putting on the weight has made a big difference for me as a player.” Former Rams coach Mike Martz is the head coach of the Fleet. San Diego opens the season on Feb. 9 at San Antonio. The organization has already lost two members to the NFL. Quarterback Josh Johnson was signed by the Washington Redskins, while coordinator Jon Kitna went to the Dallas Cowboys to be the quarterbacks coach.