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Rocky road trip yields turnaround
After defeating Austin in Texas last month, the Storm gained momentum and rolled into the playoffs.
By David Murphy
Published June 23, 2007
TAMPA - As the Storm's charter bus rolled through the early Texas morning May 6, players and coaches had already endured a road trip straight from the Griswold family diary.
The night before, their flight from Tampa to Houston had been delayed four hours, causing them to miss their connecting flight to Austin, Texas. Then, thanks to mechanical problems and a driver who headed toward Waco by mistake, a bus ride that normally takes 21/2 hours instead took six, and the Storm didn't arrive at its Austin hotel until 7 a.m.
With a 3 p.m. kickoff looming and a frazzled 2-6 team wondering when Ashton Kutcher might leap from the lavatory with a video camera, a voice in the back of the bus spoke up.
"Man, " it shouted. "We're going to kill these guys!"
"Right when we heard that, " quarterback Brett Dietz remembered, "everyone kind of got fired up."
Seven weeks after the Storm crushed the Wranglers 66-45 in Dietz's first start, the momentum has helped carry the team to the brink of the most remarkable turnaround in franchise history. As fate would have it, Austin is the opponent today as the Storm attempts to finish the regular season 9-7 and enter the postseason as one of the hottest teams in the league.
"What we overcame during that trip, if we could overcome that, we could overcome anything, " said defensive tackle Tim McGill.
During the Storm's five-game losing streak at the start of the season, there was never a hint of panic. After one practice at the University of Tampa, lineman Marcus Owen attributed that to a roster full of veteran, high-character guys.
Now, it appears he was correct.
Players such as Owen, linebacker Torrance Marshall and McGill, who have helped keep practices light. This past week, McGill was one of several players who jokingly taped contract demands to their helmet during practice.
"We don't get rattled anymore, " said McGill, who had two sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery last week in a 69-40 win over Grand Rapids. "That's what makes us good."
Storm coach Tim Marcum says that is an important quality. He pointed to teams he had in the mid 1990s whose talent was often undermined by a lack of cohesiveness.
"They were dominant, but we didn't have the camaraderie, " he said. "It was completely different than the team we have now. ... Now, we have a chance for greatness."
But first, they have one more game.
David Murphy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 352 848-1407. View his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/storm.