Quarterback Kyle Rowley, who is 2 for 2 in leading the Spokane Shock to arena football championships, wants to make it 3 for 3.
Rowley made his return official Thursday afternoon, signing a contract at Shock team headquarters. Then, true to his exhaustive workout and training regimens, Rowley planned on throwing passes to returning receiver Greg Orton.
Rowley had 23 touchdown passes and no interceptions as the Shock won three playoff games, capped by a 69-57 ArenaBowl victory over Tampa Bay. During the regular season, Rowley ranked among the league leaders in touchdowns (100), completion percentage (65) and pass efficiency (120.8) as Spokane went an AFL-best 13-3.
“People keep asking me, ‘What else can you do?’” said Rowley, who guided Spokane to an arenafootball2 title in 2006. “You can do it again. It’s one of the hardest things to do, to repeat, but that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
Spokane’s roster continues to take shape. In addition to Rowley, the Shock announced the addition of three AFL rookies: former Washington Husky offensive lineman Ben Ossai, defensive lineman Jon Williams and ex-West Virginia receiver Wes Lyons. Williams, playing for San Angelo, led the Indoor Football League with 16 sacks. Ossai started 42 games for the Huskies from 2006-09. Lyons, who is 6-foot-8 and 231 pounds, had 42 career receptions for WVU from 2006-09.
Seven players from the 2010 team have re-signed and head coach Rob Keefe expects that number to grow to 12-14.
“If your ArenaBowl champion quarterback and ArenaBowl MVP winner and leader of your team is back, it’s definitely a message to the league that we’re ready to do this again,” Keefe said. “I called Kyle and told him, ‘You’re going to get 15 calls (from other teams), I want you to do what’s best for you and your family. I really think this is the right place for you.’”
Rowley heard from several teams, including Pittsburgh, coached by ex-Shock head coach Chris Siegfried. As of Monday, AFL players were free to discuss their futures with any team.
Player salaries are limited to $400 per game with three players earning $1,000 as “marketing players.” It’s believed Rowley will be one of the three $1,000 players, but he’s also exploring other options to supplement his income.
“We worked the Spokane Fair every day and Kyle sold close to 600 of his posters there and he had a lot of interest from businesses: Can you make appearances? Can you speak to our group?” Shock majority owner Brady Nelson said. “He has some name and face recognition.”
Nelson said the AFL put in provisions last year, beyond the marketing player designation, “to make it more like other sports where guys can get their own endorsements, like boxing and MMA.”
Keefe said recruiting is generally easier at this point because Spokane won the AFL championship in its first season in the league, but the addition of four teams also means additional competition and opportunities for players. Keefe said Spokane is in contact with several prominent players, but that the franchise’s philosophy of recruiting hungry, team-first players hasn’t changed.
“If you want to play football and you want to win, this is the place you want to be,” Keefe said. “My assistant coaches have slept at my house the last couple of days. We’re non-stop at this, phone calls, text messages, Facebook. We have players calling us at 2 a.m. if that’s when they’re comfortable talking.”