Walking off the field at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex Wednesday night was an entirely different Power Arena Football League team.
Only a handful of players were from the squad a year ago that finished 4-14, a fact that’s not exactly coincidental.
With the season beginning tonight against the Cleveland Gladiators, there are mixed feelings surrounding the franchise’s wholesale change.
There’s some uncertainty with so many different pieces being put together, ones that have — for the most part — never before played together. But, more than anything, there’s a sense of excitement over what’s possible.
“We’ve got quality players,” Power coach Derek Stingley said. “I’m not saying the players we had last year weren’t as good, but we have players that came in and said, ‘It’s strictly about business.’
“It’s about getting in what we have to get in, understanding that we all have to come together as a unit, run all the plays the correct way and polish things up. It’s all about winning each day and that’s what we feel like we’ve been doing.”
After finishing last in the 14-team Arena Football League in points per game (40.3) and 11th in passing offense (241.8 yards per game), the team’s biggest area of need in the offseason was at quarterback.
In a league where a vast majority of offensive plays are passes, a team’s success can be largely dependent on the strength of its quarterback.
The search for a marquee passer ended with the acquisition of Tommy Grady from the Utah Blaze. Grady (6 feet 7) was the AFL MVP in 2012, a season in which he led the league in passing yards (5,870) and passing touchdowns (142), while completing 68.2 percent of his passes. In 2013, he threw for 3,570 yards, 67 touchdowns and 28 interceptions as the Blaze struggled to a 7-11 record.
Grady, too, sees the potential that his new team possesses.
“We’ve got a lot of talent on this team,” he said. “We just have to put it together. Not very many of us have played together before, so it’s going to be a learning process. Hopefully, everything goes as planned.”
Joining Grady as first-year members are Aaron Lesue and Shaun Kauleinamoku, two wide receivers that he played with in Utah.
Of the additions at wide receiver, none was bigger than Prechae Rodriguez. In 2013 with the Orlando Predators, Rodriguez set a single-season franchise record with 41 touchdowns while hauling in 119 passes for 1,614 yards.
Along with a number of other newcomers, Grady and Rodriguez provide hope to a Power team that struggled so often in 2013 in such an offensively oriented game.
“The potential is there, always,” Stingley said. “We’ve got a lot of quality players, players that have been there, done that. There are players that have been around me for a minute that understand the type of football that I would like for us to play.
“Then we’ve got championship players like Virgil [Gray], we’ve got playoff players like Tommy, we’ve got big-time players like Aaron. We have a lot of players that understand winning is a priority and that’s what it’s all about.”
Craig Meyer: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG.