New Quarterback Yields Old Results

View from the Press Box

Joe Kauffman
Technical Editor

May 4, 1997

For the first time in Tampa Bay Storm history, the team began its season without quarterback Jay Gruden. Apparently, the rest of the team did not miss him as new quarterback Peter Tom Willis went 21-of-32 with 224 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. For someone who hadn't played a professional regular season football game since 1994, Willis put up impressive numbers while delivering the ball to seven different Storm receivers.

While attending Florida State University, Willis set several school quarterback records during the 1989, including most yards in a season (3,124) and most touchdowns in a game (six). With wins over National Champion University of Miami and arch-rival University of Florida, he also led the Seminoles to a 1990 Fiesta Bowl victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers, a 10-2 record and a No. 3 ranking in the final AP Top 25 Poll.

After a stellar career at FSU, Willis was taken by the Chicago Bears in the third round of the 1990 NFL Draft. Although he had much promise, he sat on the bench backing up Jim Harbaugh and Steve Walsh for four years until he became a free agent. In the preseason of 1995, he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but was cut before the season began in favor of former FSU teammate Casey Weldon.

After leaving the NFL, Willis tried his hand at golf. During the last four years, he has earned over $140,000 on the Celebrity Golf Tour. He has played with the likes of NBA All-Star Michael Jordan, actor Rick Rhoden CBS television journalist Bryant Gumbel and former Vice President Dan Quayle.

Although he still has a passion for golf, this summer he is putting that aside to concentrate on arena football. He signed with the Tampa Bay Storm last March after a lengthy hiatus from football. He told the Sunshine Network that he is not using the Arena Football League as a stepping stone back to the NFL. He just wants to play football again. He saw that the Storm needed a quarterback and jumped at the chance to lead the AFL's most successful team to another ArenaBowl championship.

Peter Tom Willis silenced his critics with a well-played game at America West Arena. He'd had a shaky preseason, with losses against the Iowa Barnstormers and the Orlando Predators, but many teammates, such as WR/DB Stevie Thomas, had only been in camp for a few days. This was the first chance to see the team at nearly full strength, and Willis had plenty of help on the field. His favorite target was offensive specialist George LaFrance, who caught eight passes for 80 yards. "All of our receivers played really good....We got the 'W' and that's all that matters," he told the Sunshine Network when asked about his pleasantly surprising performance against the Rattlers.

Named the Game MVP in his first ever Arena Football game, Willis was outstanding. Can he maintain that level of play all season? We have thirteen more games to find out.

That's my view from the press box.

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