Tuesday, March 13, 2007
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Back in February, Glen Gauntt was sitting in front of his television set in Sarasota, Fla., when he came across the Weather Channel.
"I thought, 'Oh man, what I am doing?' " said Gauntt, the newly acquired quarterback of the Mahoning Valley Thunder. "I got in last Wednesday night and it snowed 3 inches.
"But it hasn't been bad. I brought some sunshine with me from Florida. And besides, spring is right around the corner."
Gauntt (pronounced GANT) may be new to Youngstown, but he isn't new to arena football. After seeing limited action at the University of South Florida, Gauntt spent two years in arena football with the Augusta Stallions. He's played for four teams in the Arena Football League the past four years.
Released from AFL
Coming back to the af2 wasn't his first choice, but after being released by the Nashville Kats last offseason, his AFL options had dried up. Fortunately for him, Thunder coach Mike Hold was familiar with Gauntt and knew he'd be a good choice to lead an expansion team.
"I'm really excited about the opportunity to have him here," Hold said. "He's a veteran quarterback and he's been in the league a long time.
"It's like having another coach on the field. He allows me to coach the young players and the receivers because I know he's going to take care of things on the field."
Gauntt is one of three quarterbacks on the roster. The other two, Mike Schneider and Matt Rycraft, are both former Youngstown State players and are rookies in the af2.
Gauntt (6-foot-2, 215 pounds) doesn't have a rocket arm but he's accurate, he's tough and he's familiar with Hold's playbook. Hold coached Gauntt in 2001-02 with the af2's Augusta Stallions and they've crossed paths in the AFL as well.
"I do know the ins and outs of the game," said Gauntt. "We're going to have some rookies and some young guys and I can help show them what to do."
At the same time, Gauntt wants to show he can still play, hoping a strong season can get him back in the AFL.
Difference in salary
Top AFL quarterbacks can make as much as 165,000 a season (the average AFL player's salary is 85,000), while af2 players make just 200 a game with an extra 50 for each win.
The other downside is that Gauntt has to adjust to another new city. The 28-year-old is still single -- "This is tough on relationships," he said with a shrug -- and each year it gets a little harder to adapt.
"Especially when you get up in age," he said. "When you're young, it's easier to do."
That said, Gauntt was successful the last time he played at this level. In 2002, he completed 306-of-519 passes for 3,787 yards, 82 touchdowns and just 16 interceptions for August.
He said it takes awhile to adjust from the outdoor game.
"The speed is fast," he said. "In terms of your reads, you have to make quick decisions.
"But the offense is pretty vanilla. It's either your receiver beats that defensive back, or the defensive back covers your receiver."
Cold weather aside, Gauntt has been impressed by the Chevrolet Centre and is hoping the af2 takes root in the Mahoning Valley.
"In some cities it flourishes and in some it doesn't take off," he said. "Hopefully we can win a lot of games and the fans will come out and see us."