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Storm

Orlando's backup QB brings title experience

Connell Maynor, a former Storm player, can run, throw and fall back on his 4 championships.

By FRANK PASTOR

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 16, 2003


TAMPA -- Connell Maynor has filled in for stars before, standing in for Jamie Foxx in the movie Any Given Sunday and appearing as a quarterback and safety in Remember the Titans.

So stepping in for injured Orlando quarterback Jay Gruden wasn't much of a stretch.

And so far Maynor has played to rave reviews.

Working behind a patchwork offensive line, the former Storm quarterback has led the Predators to victories in one relief appearance and two starts since Gruden sprained his right ankle in a Feb. 21 win at Carolina.

Maynor hopes for similar results today, when Orlando (6-0) meets Tampa Bay (4-2) at noon in a Southern Division game with playoff implications.

"If we can get this win this week, it'll be huge for us," Maynor said.

Gruden, the younger brother of Bucs coach Jon Gruden, will miss another 2-3 weeks, Orlando coach Fran Papasedero said.

Gruden was off to one of his best starts, passing for 974 yards and 20 touchdowns with no interceptions to lead Orlando's 4-0 start.

But his season was interrupted when Carolina defensive lineman Kelvin Ingram jumped over fullback Ricky Wood, who was trying to block, and landed on Gruden.

The injury was expected to sideline Gruden eight weeks. But the former Storm quarterback hoped to return for today's game, a goal Papasedero called unrealistic.

"He went about his work to prepare to get the ankle back, thinking he'd be able to play in Tampa, where everybody who had two eyes could see he wouldn't be back," Papasedero said. "That just showed what kind of a competitor he is."

Fortunately for Orlando it has a replacement with four championship rings. Maynor played behind Gruden when the Storm won ArenaBowls in 1995 and '96 and backed up current Storm QB Pat O'Hara on Orlando's '98 championship squad. Maynor led the Predators to the 2000 title as the starter.

"Connell Maynor is not a backup quarterback," Papasedero said. "He is a starting quarterback who ... no one gave the opportunity to start. There is no better situation than Connell Maynor coming off the bench as you look at the No. 2 guys around the league."

Maynor passed for 122 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 29 yards and two scores in Orlando's 70-42 victory over Carolina.

In two starts he completed 36 of 62 passes for 472 yards and 11 touchdowns with one interception. He matched a franchise record with eight touchdown passes in a 72-56 win at New York.

"It's a joy to be back on the field playing again after backing up Jay," Maynor said. "It's unfortunate for me to have to play the way I am, but you have to stay ready."

Maynor and Gruden present different problems for defenses.

"You work a little bit more on the 'jill' (tight-end side) linebacker stepping up and cutting off the run lanes when Connell's in there, because he's going to take off with it," Storm coach Tim Marcum said. "Jay's probably going to throw it away."

Though Gruden isn't expected to play, he'll be involved. He calls plays with input from Papasedero and coordinator Bret Munsey.

"If we win, he'll be a big part of it," Papasedero said.

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