Look up and down the Arena Football League record book and it’s next to impossible not to notice the name T.T. Toliver sprinkled liberally throughout.
In last week’s season-opening 60-44 loss to Cleveland, Toliver racked up a Week 1-best 161 yards to pass AFL Hall of Famer Eddie Brown (12,726) and move into fourth place on the AFL all-time career receiving yards list with 12,816 during his 13 years in the league.
He grabbed three touchdown passes against the Gladiators to increase his career TD total to 245, seventh all-time in the AFL and only two behind sixth-place Siaha Burley (247).
Toliver entered the 2015 season with 977 receptions. After hauling in 12 versus Cleveland, he needs just two more to surpass Barry Wagner for fourth place on the career receptions list.
Toliver can reach one more milestone Friday when the Tampa Bay Storm travel to Portland to take on the Thunder.
With 11 catches, the AFL veteran will reach 1,000 for his career, becoming only the 17th player in professional football history to reach the achievement.
“T.T. deserves everything that’s coming to him at this point,” Storm head coach Lawrence Samuels said. “He’s been doing this for a long time. He’s been playing at a high level for a long time. He deserves to be able to accomplish that record and surpass it and move on and set new records.”
Even more amazing than his numerous achievements, at 38-years-old, Toliver shows no signs of slowing down. Following the opening week of the 2015 AFL season, Toliver leads the league in receiving years.
From 2007-2013, he had six-straight seasons of 100 receptions or more and gained over 1,200 yards in each.
“I just feel like time’s running out,” Toliver said. “That’s the most thing I’m worried about is I know that time is ticking. I just try to come out here and take it day by day and work hard.”
When Toliver decides to hang up his cleats for good, he’ll finish as one of the most accomplished wide receivers in AFL history and a potential Hall of Famer. He won an ArenaBowl championship in his second year in the league with the Storm in 2003.
Yet, Toliver approaches each practice like he’s a rookie and it’s his first. When he leaves practice, he hits the weight room where he runs on the treadmill and lifts weights.
He works tirelessly to keep his body in remarkable shape.
Toliver is driven by the same fear we all experience at one point in life: the idea that some talented, fresh-faced youngster might be trying to take our spot.
“I’m scared that somebody’s working harder than me,” Toliver said. “That’s my motivation. It’s that drive that’s still inside of me that keeps me working. My momma always told me, ‘Somebody’s always working harder than you.’ I have that in the back of my head so much…You’ve got young guys coming in each and every year that are getting better…I want to outdo some of these young guys and show that the veterans can still play this game.”
Samuels said Toliver is “like a second coach on the field” who tries to impart his wisdom on a Storm receiving corps that is young, outside of Toliver.
“He’s like the backup guy,” Samuels said. “He backs you up. ‘Yeah, coach is right. You’ve got to do it this way.’ He’s that type of guy…Those young guys learn a lot from him every day they’re out here.”
Later this season, Toliver can add one more achievement to his resume. With 41 more receptions, Toliver will tie his head coach for second on the AFL career receptions list. Samuels finished his accomplished AFL career with 1,030 catches.
Toliver, however, doesn’t like to keep track of his numbers.
“I was always taught stats are for cowards,” he said. “If you aren’t winning, what good are stats? So, I just want to come out here and focus on winning.”
Call him the Tampa Bay Storm’s Iron Man.
Just don’t call him old man.