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Storm to retire No. 25
By FRANK PASTOR
Published March 9, 2005
Before the Storm could retire George LaFrance's No. 25, it had to make sure he was done using it.
"He was one of those guys that just wouldn't let go," Storm coach Tim Marcum said. "He was going to go play for arena2. He came back and tried to play. You were just never sure."
Now that LaFrance is 39 and has been out of football for five seasons, the time seems right.
The Storm will honor its former offensive specialist during Sunday's game against Arizona at noon at the St. Pete Times Forum. LaFrance then will sign autographs on the concourse of the plaza level from halftime until the start of the fourth quarter.
He will become the fifth player in the Storm's 14-year history to have his number retired, joining quarterback Jay Gruden (7), lineman Sylvester Bembery (78), receiver/linebacker Stevie Thomas (20) and receiver/defensive back Tracey Perkins (24).
LaFrance, who played with the Storm from 1994-99, said he'd like to be remembered as a team player.
"I was just a piece of the puzzle," said LaFrance, who won six ArenaBowls, including two with the Storm, during his 12 seasons in the league. "I always give credit to my teammates. I never took credit for myself. I always give it to them, because without your teammates you're not a team."
A three-time ArenaBowl MVP ('89, '92, '95), LaFrance caught 391 passes for 5,392 yards and 127 touchdowns with the Storm. Among the records he holds are Tampa Bay's career marks for all-purpose (11,931) and combined return yards (6,495).
LaFrance lives on a Navajo reservation in Arizona with his wife, Darlene, and three daughters and teaches math in the Chinle School District. With school out for spring break, LaFrance plans to stay in Tampa for two weeks and work with the Storm as a volunteer assistant.
In waiting to retire LaFrance's number, the Storm hoped to avoid a repeat of the situation in which it unretired Gruden's number after he came out of retirement to play for Orlando in 2002-03.
Quarterback Stoney Case, who currently wears No. 25, will relinquish the number when he is done playing with the Storm.
"I haven't even asked Stoney about it," Marcum said. "I don't feel right about asking a guy (after) we gave him a number. If I'd known we were going to do this earlier, I wouldn't have given him the number."
EX-PLAYER SHOT: Former Storm receiver/defensive back Toren Robinson might not walk again after he was robbed and shot outside his Houston home on Friday, the Houston Chronicle reported. The bullet severed his spine, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.
Robinson, who played with the Storm in 1994, was checking his mail when he was approached by two armed men and shot in the back, his sister, Ramona, said. Robinson was dragged into his house and hit in the head with a pistol as he begged for his life and prayed aloud for the men to be forgiven.
Police are investigating the incident.
"I was shocked about it," said LaFrance, who played with Robinson in '94. "I was like, "Wow, you never know.' You have to keep thanking God and try to be safe out there."
TWICE AS NICE: Quarterback Shane Stafford was named the Arena Football League Writers Association player of the week and the league's offensive player of the week after completing 24 of 33 passes for 298 yards and seven touchdowns in a 70-50 victory over Grand Rapids on Sunday. He also ran for a score.
SAME TO HIM: Marcum did his best Lou Holtz impression when asked about Arizona, which will bring a 1-5 record into Sunday's game.
"This is the same team we're playing that played in the last three ArenaBowl championships," Marcum said. "What's wrong with them? Why are they 1 and whatever? They've had injuries, and now you've got the big left-hander (quarterback Sherdrick Bonner) back. Don't tell me these guys can't be good, because they can."