Former MTSU defensive back Rod Issac is one of the reasons the Tampa Bay Storm could be in the running for another Arena Bowl title this season.
Issac, who graduated from MTSU in 2011, is currently in his first season in the Arena Football League. The Storm faced hated in-state rival the Orlando Predators on Saturday.
Of course, the AFL is a totally different brand of football. The games are played indoors on a 50-yard field with plenty of scoring, so players like Issac play an important role on a team’s success in the league. So far, Issac had made the adjustment to the indoor game.
“It is going pretty good,” Issac said. “The biggest difference so far is getting used to the confinements of the game, learning the rules and understanding it is a short field to work with. At the same time, it is the same speed as the outdoor game. In outdoor football, you are allowed certain things, so you can disguise coverage. In arena football, it is a lot of man-on-man coverage. You try to stay away from zone calls because a lot of things will get exposed.”
The field is 85 feet wide and 50 yards long, and the sideline barriers are 4 feet high, so there is not a lot of room for error. Also, one of the wide receivers on offense can go in motion toward the defender before the ball is snapped during each play. It is one of many differences Issac has gotten use to early this season.
After five games, the Storm was 3-2. Issac had 21.5 total tackles, two pass breakups and a forced fumble. He also plays special teams, and on March 14 against New Orleans, he scored his first ever AFL touchdown when he recovered a kick off the net, which is allowed in the rules.
“It was an exciting play,” Issac said of the touchdown. “Our coaches were preaching there will be times on kickoffs it will hit the net, and we got to have guys down there to cover the ball since it is a live ball. Every time on kickoffs I try my best to run down full speed, and use it to my advantage.
“That particular play I got down the field fast and the ball hit the net. The player misjudged it, and I just tipped to myself and scored the touchdown.”
In arena football, the goal posts are 9 feet wide and 15 feet high, with the crossbar at 10 feet. On each side of them is the rebound nets, which are 30 feet wide by 32 feet high. During kickoffs, which take place on the kicking team’s 1-yard line, once the ball hits the net it is live and either team can recover it.
The Storm was one of the original AFL teams back when the league was founded in 1987 as the Pittsburgh Gladiators. In 1991, the franchise became the Tampa Bay Storm, and it has been there since as one of the oldest teams in the league. During its history, the Storm has won five Arena Bowls, with its last coming in 2003. This year, Issac hopes to help the team return to its glory days.
“We want to stay consistent and finish,” Issac said. “Those are the type of teams that make it to the playoffs and the Arena Bowl. We also want to stay healthy and keep each other accountable.”