Wagner: The Best EverView From the Press Box
May 18, 1997
TAMPA, Fla. - Barry Wagner has proven once again that he is the best to ever play the game of Arena Football. In Saturday night's game against the Tampa Bay Storm (2-1), the five-time AFL Ironman of the Year led his the Orlando Predators (2-1) to a 43-17 blowout of the defending ArenaBowl champions.
Wagner's domination over the Tampa Bay Storm began on the first play of the game, when he returned an interception 14 yards for a touchdown. Against the Storm, he had 129 all-purpose yards, including 110 yards receiving with four touchdowns and two interceptions for 14 yards and one touchdown. He had more points at the half (18) than the Storm (ten). His five touchdowns, seven tackles and four passes defensed earned him both the MVP and Ironman of the game honors.
"I was in the zone, and when Barry Wagner's in the zone, ain't nobody gonna stop me," said Wagner about his performance. "I'm focused and I'm on top of my game."
Wagner, in his sixth AFL season, has scored five or more touchdowns in 15 different games while with the Predators. This was his first against the Storm. He has been named to the All-Arena First Team five times as a WR/DB and was second in the league in receiving coming into the 1997 season, and his 1016 points is first in the AFL.
In his first five years with the Predators, Wagner has seen his team lose three ArenaBowls (1992, 1994 and 1995), as well as a league semifinal (1993) and quarterfinal (1996). Two of those losses came against the Storm. The best two-way player ever, he desperately wants to win a championship.
"I ain't even thinking about Ironman. I want to win the championship. I want to say [we're] the best once out of the six years I've been here," said Wagner.
Last year against the Storm, Wagner, who missed almost five full games with a broken leg, was nearly shut down by Storm WR/DB Johnnie Harris. Harris tried to do it again, but a groin pull slowed him throughout the game.
"Last year he struggled against Harris and this year he came out with a mission," said Predators quarterback Scott Semptimphelter, who started in his first Arena Football game. "He showed why he's Ironman."
Barry Wagner can lose his temper sometimes. Near the end of the third quarter after a blocked extra point, he got into a little tussle with some Storm players. Said Wagner of the altercation, "Les Barley blocked me and number 50 (Storm lineman Michael Kerr)...jumped on me, speared me with his helmet. I get mad. I let them get mad."
"When he played against Tampa last, he didn't have a good ballgame," said Predators coach Perry Moss, who has guided Wagner during his entire career in Arena Football. "Any time he gets ready to play, he's really a force in the football game."
Barry Wagner will likely be inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame in his first year of eligiblity, three years after he retires. His league records and awards are proof that he is the greatest to play Arena Football. He is only missing one award---an ArenaBowl championship ring. He is does not want to be remembered for never winning a championship. For five years, his Predators have been stepped on, but now, Barry Wagner wants to say that his team is the best.
That's my view from the press box.
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