For much of this season, Adam Kennedy has watched games firmly planted on the Tampa Bay Storm bench.
Tampa Bay’s backup quarterback since Week 3, Kennedy waited patiently as Jason Boltus returned to the team and took over as the Storm’s starter under center. Kennedy’s appearances were infrequent. He saw spot duty in the Storm’s lone victory this season versus Arizona, rushing for a four-yard touchdown in the 63-56 win. He spelled Boltus two weeks ago against the KISS in Los Angeles, going 3-for-3 for 38 yards and one of the Storm’s three touchdowns in the loss.
But last week versus the Philadelphia Soul, Kennedy finally got some extended action following a first-quarter injury to Boltus.
The 6-foot-5, 230-pound backup shook off the rust and provided the Storm with one of their best quarterbacking performances of the season.
Kennedy tossed a pair of 45-yard touchdown passes to Kendrick Ings and Prechae Rodriguez in the second quarter to get the Storm back within striking distance. He threw three more touchdown passes in the second half and went 17-of-26 for 245 yards and five touchdowns overall while chipping in 22 yards rushing on four carries. He nearly rallied the Storm to their second win of the season in a narrow 56-51 loss to the American Conference-leading Soul.
With Kennedy taking snaps for the majority of the game, the Storm ended a five-game stretch where they scored less than 50 points.
“Anytime a backup quarterback comes off the bench, you kind of wonder what’s going to happen,” Tampa Bay head coach Lawrence Samuels said. “He came in like the professional he is. He stayed patient all year long, came to practice, worked hard and it showed. He came in, and we didn’t miss a beat. We had an opportunity to win the game.”
After waiting his turn, Kennedy showed he has the tools to lead the Storm.
“I felt great during the game,” Kennedy said of his relief appearance against Philadelphia. “It did not feel so good the next day. But, yeah, it was fun to get in there again. It had been a long time since I had gotten some serious action. It felt like old times.
"I’ve started a lot of games in this league. Things didn’t go exactly as expected this year, but it was fun to get back in there with the guys, to joke around. I think you could tell I was having fun … Hopefully, I can keep that same attitude, just go out there and have fun, let it fly and let the chips fall where they may.”
Kennedy will get his first start since Week 2 at Cleveland when Tampa Bay concludes the home portion of its 2016 regular season schedule on Saturday versus the Portland Steel (5 p.m. kickoff). The Storm will look to avenge an earlier 33-point loss to the Steel, the last-place team in the National Conference.
“It’ll be exciting. I’m looking forward to it,” Kennedy said. “It’s been a while…Definitely an extra little bit of preparation. I’ll definitely be wearing my rib protector this week as opposed to last week. But I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be fun. I think we’ve had a good week of practice, and hopefully the momentum we gained from last week carries over to this week.”
Kennedy said it was “extremely hard” watching from the bench but stayed engaged in games so he could be a second pair of eyes for Boltus. The two quarterbacks developed a bond, and Kennedy would relay information to Boltus from the bench to help the starter. His involvement in the game, despite not playing, allowed Kennedy to not miss a beat when his number was finally called.
“It was tough to watch the team struggle and watch (Boltus) fight through some tough times,” he said. “I was glad to come in and help us at least get a little bit of a spark there. It had been, I don’t know, six, seven weeks since we’ve put up that amount of points. It was nice to have some offensive flow, but it was definitely tough to sit there and just watch week after week, especially we went through that six-week span where it just was not good.”
Storm record-setting wide receiver T.T. Toliver said Kennedy showed that the Storm have two capable quarterbacks in Boltus, when healthy, and Kennedy. Boltus was placed on the inactive roster on Wednesday. The Storm acquired second-year AFL pro Warren Smith to backup Kennedy against Portland.
“(Kennedy) came in (to the game) and didn’t budge,” Toliver said. “He carried us. Even though we didn’t win, we still executed and did what we need to do to put some points on the board. We just didn’t get the win.”
On Saturday, Kennedy will look to snap another lengthy drought: the Storm’s losing streak, which now stands at six games.
Samuels said he’s looking forward to seeing what Kennedy can do for a full four quarters.
“He’s been a pro all year long,” Samuels said. “He understands that he can come in at any time and carry the team. He did just that. We’re proud of what he did and his abilities and what he can do. And we’re looking forward to this Saturday. Hopefully, he does it again.”