Brian Zbydniewski and the Spokane Shock go way back.
“Zeb,” as he’s known to teammates, is the answer to a couple of trivia questions from two of Spokane’s finest seasons.
What quarterback was traded for Kyle Rowley in 2006? Zbydniewski was dealt after five games to Bossier-Shreveport for Rowley, who eventually led Spokane to an arenafootball2 title in its first season.
Who became the backup quarterback when the team was in a pinch in 2010? That would be Zeb, who was waiting tables at a seafood restaurant in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. He drove six hours to back up Rowley in a game at Orlando. He worked 50 hours at the restaurant the following week and flew into Spokane just in time for his second game.
The following week Erik Meyer was put on injured reserve and Zbydniewski joined the team full time. He directed three touchdown drives in relief of Rowley in a late-season loss at Jacksonville.
Fast forward to 2014 and Spokane’s season had swerved off course after Meyer’s collarbone injury earlier this month. Spokane hopes Zbydniewski can be the answer to jump-start a struggling offense.
“I just want to go out there and give the team somebody they trust and can feel confidence in,” said Zbydniewski, who has nine years of arena experience and last played in 2013 with Cleveland. “It’s a tough situation and everyone knows that. San Jose has a great team so it’ll be a huge challenge. I just want to give our guys opportunities to make plays and build confidence back in the team.”
Coach Andy Olson had been trying to acquire an experienced quarterback, but the asking price was steep. He found a willing trade partner in Cleveland, where Zbydniewski was on the suspension list, for future considerations and claim order position.
“We really feel like it was a steal,” Olson said. “Even offering two valuable starters most teams wouldn’t (trade) and it was really hard to even get anybody to talk about trading.”
Zbydniewski was working 40-hour weeks at a factory in Madison, Wisconsin. He heard from the Shock soon after Meyer’s injury, but it took some time to finalize details.
“I was just trying to make a living,” Zbydniewski said. “I was new to the company (two months) and I tried to talk to them and say, ‘Hey, this is my situation, it’s an opportunity of a lifetime.’ They were surprised with everything going on.”
Zbydniewski, 32, arrived Tuesday and threw with the receivers. He went through a full practice Wednesday and there was a perceptible increase in the competition level.
“There’s just something about that energy,” receiver Mike Washington said. “And energy is contagious. Other players see it and feed off it.”
Zbydniewski and Meyer have remained in contact since Zbydniewski left Spokane in 2010. Meyer has been helping with pointers and the two have been putting in time at the chalkboard.
“What I love coming into a situation like this is everyone wants to prove themselves. It makes everybody step up,” Zbydniewski said. “I want to prove myself.”
Rules for players on injured reserve were adjusted at a recent board of directors meeting. Teams can activate three players (instead of one) from IR after the ninth week of the season. That’s important for Spokane, which hopes to have Meyer and receiver Adron Tennell (foot) for the stretch drive of the regular season.
Former Shock general manager Ryan Rigmaiden attended practice and will be at Friday’s game. Rigmaiden, director of U.S. scouting for British Columbia of the CFL, will join the Lions for training camp next week in Kamloops. … Shock defensive back Paul Stephens will play Friday before joining B.C. next week.