The average professional career for football players is about four years. The average professional athlete’s career is over by age 33.
Storm wide receiver T.T. Toliver is currently playing his 14th year of professional football and is 39. While one might expect the veteran to be slower than the others and not as quick as he once was, anyone that goes to a Storm game might say he is faster than ever.
Age, however, doesn’t seem to faze Toliver, who has broken a pair of league records in the last two games and three total this season.
Toliver’s record-breaking trend started in the Storm’s second regular season matchup versus the Orlando Predators when he became the first player in AFL history to record 5,000-plus career receiving yards and 400-plus receptions with two different teams (Orlando – 7,734 yards/604 receptions; Tampa Bay – 5,362 yards/421 receptions).
It continued when Toliver caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jason Boltus with 4:23 left in the second quarter of their game against the Jacksonville Sharks on June 11 to take the league lead in receiving yards. It took until his last catch to surpass AFL Hall-of-Famer Damian Harrell, who finished his career in 2011 with 15,134 yards.
As if already breaking two records wasn’t enough, Toliver did it again in the Storm’s next game against the Los Angeles KISS. A 22-yard catch from Boltus with 8:34 left to play helped him surpass Damian Harrell yet again, making him the All-Time leader in receptions at 1,165.
“When I first came here, I was just trying to be a part of something,” Toliver said. “Coming to Tampa, they welcomed me into everything, and now I’m just trying to reward them for accepting me here.”
Storm head coach Lawrence Samuels, a former teammate to Toliver, described the veteran wideout as a teacher on the field. He said Toliver constantly does the little things right, which eventually turn into big things like breaking records.
“I just really feel like T.T. deserves everything that’s coming to him,” Samuels said. “He’s put a lot of years and a lot of time and effort into this game -- period. And it’s showing.
“He’s reaping the benefits of all the time and effort he has put in.”
The excitement for Toliver is not over yet, though. He currently ranks second in AFL history with 20,973 all-purpose yards and needs 70 more to become the league leader. Reaching this milestone would also make him eighth all-time in the history of professional football.
At the end of the day, breaking records isn’t what is most important to Toliver. Described as one of the most modest, team-oriented players there is, all Toliver wants is to get the Storm back on the right track.
“We need to start fast,” he said. “Lately we’ve been starting slow, and we just need to start fast and play some flawless offense. When we won against Arizona (on May 29), we may have gotten stopped twice, but we didn’t quit. We just continued on going.”
The Storm will look for their second win of the season Friday when they take on the rival Orlando Predators in the 61st installment of the War on I-4 at Amway Arena. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Tampa Bay’s key to victory? Execution, Toliver said.
“We’ve just gotta come out here and compete,” he said. “If we can come out here and play all four quarters of the game like that … the sky is the limit for us.”