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shaneo69
02-01-2007, 07:35 PM
Brigade has QB options
Four players, including ex-Chief Quinn and former K-State star Bishop, are vying for the starting job.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star

Nobody ever said that being the starting quarterback for a professional football team was easy.

For many quarterbacks, the road to becoming “The Man” is littered with pitfalls and challenges — and the competition is no different in the Arena Football League than in any other level of the game.

Just ask the four quarterbacks trying to become the Brigade starter this season.

Unhappy with last year’s 3-13 record, Brigade coach Kevin Porter made widespread changes from coaches to players. There are 24 new faces on the training-camp roster, including two new quarterbacks — former Chief Jonathan Quinn and Michael Bishop, who starred at Kansas State in the late 1990s.

Porter brought them in to compete with last year’s holdovers at the position, Raymond Philyaw and Chris Sanders, for two roster spots before the season starts March 4. Porter says all four quarterbacks have one important thing in common.

“You can tell they all have a tremendous amount to prove,” he said.

The starter

The party was on, and all Raymond Philyaw could do was stand there and watch.

Philyaw was at the Arena Bowl last year in Las Vegas when his old team, the Chicago Rush, won the championship over Orlando. Philyaw led the Rush to the conference semifinals in the two previous seasons, but he wasn’t re-signed after a torn rotator cuff was discovered in his throwing shoulder.

“I know all those guys, so I was happy for them, but at the same time, I was thinking it could have been me,” Philyaw said.

Philyaw, who spent the first 11 weeks of the 2006 season rehabbing, eventually signed with the Brigade and started the last game of the season, throwing for 285 yards and five touchdowns.

That game convinced Porter to pick Philyaw, 32, as the starter going into training camp. But Philyaw knows there are four quarterbacks and only two roster spots.

“I want to say I’m the guy, but we still have training camp,” he said. “It’s all about competing.”

The chance

Competition is something Chris Sanders, the man Philyaw replaced in the finale last year, knows all too well.

For the longest time, Sanders waited for his chance to be a full-time starting quarterback. He had spent time in the NFL and NFL Europe and started a handful of Arena games. But when the Brigade dumped QB Andy Kelly in midseason last year, Sanders started eight games and passed for more than 2,000 yards and 36 touchdowns.

The team thought enough of Sanders, 29, to bring him back. Now, for the first time in his career, Sanders is with the same team for consecutive years.

He’s stable, he’s happy, and he’s got a shot at winning the starting job. And he’s determined not to let it slip away.

“I’m preparing myself to go against Chicago,” he said. “There are a lot of things that go on during the season and during camp that can change things.”

The desire

At 6 feet 5 and 244 pounds, Jonathan Quinn has the prototypical NFL frame. His arm is strong enough to make all the throws, and he has the height to scan the defense with ease.

He also has eight years of NFL experience. After spending some time with the Jaguars and Bears, Quinn was cut by the Chiefs during training camp in 2005. He waited the entire season for another team to call him, but each time it was someone else who got the chance.

“Sometimes I’d watch NFL games and go, ‘Man, I know I’m better than that guy,’ ” Quinn said. “There are definitely times I felt I could still compete at that level.”

Quinn spent the next season coaching quarterbacks at MidAmerica Nazarene, a job he enjoys and still holds. He thought he could still play but didn’t want to move his family, so despite offers from other Arena teams, he called the Brigade and was granted a tryout. He did well enough to be invited to training camp.

Despite his NFL experience, Quinn isn’t taking anything for granted.

“I don’t know if I’ll be any good at (Arena football) or not,” said Quinn, 31. “Whether I get the chance to play in the NFL again, who knows? But I love the game and I look at this as a challenge.”

The focus

Back in 1998, Michael Bishop was not only “The Man” but also the big man on campus.

Bishop led Kansas State to the brink of a national-championship bid in 1998 and finished second in that year’s Heisman Trophy voting.

After tours of duty in the NFL and Canadian Football League, Bishop started 15 games in the Arena League with Grand Rapids and threw for 3,355 yards and 57 touchdowns in 2005. But he spent last year as a backup with Chicago.

So when Porter offered Bishop a shot at the starting job, he jumped at the chance to go back to the area where he’d had so much success in college.

Bishop, 30, said he has a new attitude — he’s more detail-minded, more focused. And it’s all because of a tragedy.

Bishop’s mother died suddenly of a heart attack last year, and he missed several weeks of the season. But he said it made him appreciate every snap he took. He still wants to be “The Man,” but more than anything, he just wants to keep making his family proud of him.

“I know everything happens for a reason, and when my mom passed, it made me look at things a lot differently,” he said. “I’m just going to go out and do my thing and let the chips fall where they may. I do this for my family.”

The competition

Four quarterbacks. Two roster spots. That’s training camp, in a nutshell.

But the four jostling for spots on the Brigade don’t mind. No matter the motivation, whether it’s Philyaw’s quest to prove he can lead a team to an Arena Bowl championship, Bishop’s desire to make his mother proud, or Sanders’ and Quinn’s craving to finally be “The Man,” in the end, all a quarterback can really ask for is a legitimate chance to compete.

All four Brigade quarterbacks are convinced they’ll get that chance. During the first day of minicamp Tuesday at the Soccerdome, the quarterbacks split the snaps evenly.

“This is a passing league, and there’s competition for a job,” Quinn said. “What more could a quarterback want?”