Positional Breakdown: Linebackers

By: Josh Nye
Pirates Writer
March 29, 2021

After taking a look at the signed quarterbacks earlier this month, it’s time now to examine the Pirates linebackers. The linebacker core features two returning players and two newcomers, all of which have garnered numerous years of football experience across all levels of the game. Altogether, the group possesses tremendous skill sets that will benefit the organization in 2021.

Tavarus Dantzler:

Tavarus Dantzler returns for his third season with the Massachusetts Pirates. Prior to joining the Pirates in 2018, Dantzler had a stint with the Green Bay Packers in 2015 and played collegiately for Bethune-Cookman University.

After looking through some of Dantzler’s highlights, it’s clear to see that Dantzler possesses a great sense of speed. Dantzler also has great tackling ability. Once he gets a hand on an opponent, their destination is the ground as Dantzler enforces his power and takes them down with ease.

Throughout his time with the Pirates, 6-foot-3, 250-pound Dantzler has made a total of 19 regular-season appearances and has amounted 35 tackles along with 2 sacks. Most impressively, he holds the Pirates postseason single-game sack record, as he recorded 2 sacks in the organization’s 2019 playoff game against the Carolina Cobras.

Dantzler also had a great ending to his college career, as he made a total of 80 tackles, 8.5 for a loss, 1 sack, 3 forced fumbles, and 3 fumble recoveries for Bethune-Cookman as a senior in 2014.

After re-upping with the Pirates in November 2020, Dantzler conveyed his one goal for this season. “It feels great to be back. After coming close to winning a title in my first two seasons, my only goal now is to win it all.”

Martrell Spaight:

Spaight tracking down former Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel.

After announcing his retirement from professional football in 2019, Martrell Spaight is ready to make his return. 2021 will be his first season with the Pirates. Prior to joining the Pirates, Spaight had stints with multiple NFL teams after a stellar career at the University of Arkansas. During his senior season as a Razorback, Spaight led the SEC with 128 tackles and was named consensus First-Team All-SEC.

The 6-foot, 235-pound Spaight provides the Pirates linebacker core with spark and leadership. He brings energy to the field and will have his teammates hyped-up after making a big play. Spaight is also not afraid to put force into a hit of an opponent.

A former NFL draft pick of the Washington Football Team in 2015, Spaight spent four years in the NFL and had 107 tackles, 2 pass deflections, and 1 interception.

After signing with the Pirates, team president and general manager Jawad Yatim stated, “In Martrell’s case, the first thing that pops out on tape is that he plays with a lot of energy and passion, he’s the type of player that leaves it all out on the field, and we feel he’s going to be an accountable and professional presence in our locker room.”

Celestin spent the 2018 NFL preseason with the Atlanta Falcons and led the team in tackles during that span.

Jonathan Celestin:

Another newcomer to Massachusetts, Jonathan Celestin enters his first season as a member of the Pirates after previously having stints in the XFL and NFL.

The 6-foot-3, 230-pound linebacker brings a lot to the table. For one, he possesses great ball vision. Wherever he is on the field, Celestin is able to find his way to the ball and either forces the opponent to the ground or finds it mid-air and picks it off. Celestin also isn’t afraid to show off his hard-hitting abilities as well.

During his time as a Minnesota Gopher in college, Celestin amounted a total of 217 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 touchdown.

After signing with the Pirates, Celestin said “I love this game and I can’t wait to show my talents off with the Pirates.”

Chucky Williams:

Chucky Williams returns for his second season with the Massachusetts Pirates. Prior to joining the Pirates, Williams was an undrafted free agent signing of the Los Angeles Rams and played college football at the University of Louisville.

The 6-foot-2, 222-pound “JACK” linebacker was named Second-Team All-NAL with the Pirates in 2019 after collecting 51.5 tackles, 11 pass breakups, and a fumble return touchdown. He possesses tremendous strength by burying ball carriers into the turf. Opposing IFL offenses should be wary of Williams entering 2021, and if they’re not, they simply haven’t done their homework.

During his time at the University of Louisville, Williams amounted a total of 215 tackles, 5 of which were for a loss, 9 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles, and 3 fumble recoveries.

Yatim had this to say after re-signing Williams in September 2020. “Chucky is a passionate, enthusiastic presence in our organization. He brings energy to our defense and plays with a tremendous amount of heart.”

Summary:

With years of experience, along with skills such as ball vision, strength, and charisma, the 2021 Pirates linebacker core of Tarvarus Dantzler, Martrell Spaight, Jonathan Celestin, and Chucky Williams are ready to make a significant impact early in the Pirates inaugural IFL campaign.

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