Everything moves a little faster in Arena League Football. After practice Tuesday afternoon, the Spokane Shock receivers had worn out the live quarterbacks and turned to the automatic passing machine.
Then they turned up the speed. At 88 miles an hour, the ball is just a blur and barely catchable.
“You’ve got to see it leave the quarterback’s hands, so to speak, and look it all the way into your hands,” explained second-year Shock receiver Jeffrey Solomon, a former Washington State Cougar who’s still catching on and catching up to the indoor game.
His next chance will come Sunday in the season opener at Cleveland.
Solomon, a star quarterback and defensive back at Ingraham High School in Seattle, played as a true freshman at Eastern Washington, then sat out the next two seasons with an injury and a year of ineligibility as he transferred to WSU.
Solomon played in Pullman in 2009 and 2010, catching 42 balls for 534 yards and two touchdowns, one in each season and both against UCLA. The TD catch in 2010 came in the Rose Bowl, one of the first games his mother was able to attend. A picture of the catch still hangs in his apartment.
“That was a great memory,” said Solomon, who ranked third on the team in both catches and yards in 2009, and fourth in both categories the following year despite a midseason knee injury.
Solomon didn’t get a shot at the NFL, but made contact with Shock general manager Ryan Rigmaiden while trying out for the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League. That led Solomon away from the “outdoor” game, as he calls it.
Last year, Solomon played in five Shock games, catching 33 balls for 431 yards for a team-high 13.1 yards per catch. He also caught eight touchdown passes.
“He’s still finding out his potential; still learning how to play the game,” Shock coach Andy Olson said Tuesday. “He’s just getting warmed up.”
To that end, the 6-foot-0, 200-pound Solomon spent the offseason working out back in Seattle with ex-WSU teammates Brandon Gibson and Myron Beck.
For Solomon, the biggest transition in Arena Football “is that it’s faster than outside football. The biggest transition is speeding everything up while staying patient and relaxed.
“I know it sounds funny, but I’m becoming accustomed to it.”
The Shock will fly out of Spokane on Saturday morning. The teams met once last year, with Cleveland winning 61-55 on March 19 in Spokane.