Ask Michael Lindsey what position he plays for the Tampa Bay Storm, and the one-word reply, following a few moments of contemplation, is succinct.
Fitting, because Lindsey was everywhere during the Storm’s 53-47 victory over Washington their last time taking the field. On offense, Lindsey filled in at receiver late in the game. On defense, he played nearly the 60 minutes at jack linebacker after an injury in the secondary forced some shuffling of positions.
And on special teams, Lindsey brought back four kick returns for a total of 87 yards, a nearly 22-yard average. He was a one-man wrecking crew on the kick coverage unit, holding Valor return man Cameron McGlenn to just a 10-yard average.
And he produced maybe the game’s most important play on the opening kickoff of the second half, chasing McGlenn down from behind to pop the ball out of his hands for Storm kicker Mark Lewis to recover. Three plays later, Tampa Bay quarterback Randy Hippeard connected with Kendrick Ings to tie the game back up and swing momentum back to the Storm after Washington threatened to pull away late in the second quarter.
Following the victory, which gave the Storm their fourth-consecutive win and pushed their record to 5-1, Tampa Bay head coach Ron James singled out Lindsey as the team’s unsung hero.
“I knew it was going to be a good game for me,” Lindsey said about his performance against Washington. “I was going around telling everybody it was going to be a good game. Everything happened just how I envisioned it. One thing about me, I’m a team player. Whatever my team needs me to do, I’m going to do. I work hard in the offseason and in practice to be ready when called upon.”
Though the first half of the 2017 Arena Football League season, Lindsey’s number has been called on quite often for the Storm.
“Every team’s got what I call the glue guys, the guys that hold it together,” James said. “With Lindsey, you’ve got a guy that can play wide receiver, he can play jack linebacker, he’s an animal on special teams, just does a lot of the dirty work nobody notices because his role as a fourth receiver isn’t as glamorous as the three guys that are starting ahead of him. “He embraces those roles and he works hard every day.”
James said he didn’t know much about the 29-year-old Lindsey when the Storm brought him in for training camp but in a short amount of time impressed the head coach as well as earning his trust.
“He outworked everybody in training camp,” James said. “He was a guy that earned his spot and really you look at and say every day he comes to work and just grinds it. I think he’s very appreciative of the opportunities he’s had. He’s making the most of them. We’re really happy he’s developed into a player that just embraces the role he has.”
Lindsey is in his second stint with the Storm. After prepping for Boca Ciega High School in St. Petersburg and playing collegiately at Los Medanos College and Northwest Mississippi Community College, Lindsey joined the Storm in 2011 and played four seasons for Tampa Bay, collecting 27 receiving touchdowns and over 2,000 yards as a wideout. He developed into one of the league’s most dangerous returners too, setting the franchise single-season record for kickoff return yards his rookie season (1,745),shattering the old mark (1,282) held by AFL Hall of Famer George LaFrance. By the time he left Tampa Bay following the 2014 season, Lindsey was the franchise’s all-time kickoff return leader with 6,039 yards.
After helping Jacksonville on its run to the ArenaBowl in 2015, Lindsey came back to the Storm for a couple spot starts in 2016 before seeing an expanded role this season.
Despite his previous returning prowess, Lindsey has split kick return duties this season with Ings, forming what the Storm call their Thunder and Lightning tandem. While Ings has the speed and cutting ability to make an entire coverage unit whiff, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Lindsey would just as soon run through a would-be tackler than maneuver around him.
Both Ings and Lindsey can take a return to the house.
They just do it in different ways.
“On most teams, I can say that Lindsey would probably be the No. 1 return man. He’s that good,” James said. “His past here will show you that. But we have a guy in Kendrick who’s also dynamic. We’re blessed to have the one-two punch, and we’re going to utilize it as much as we can. Kendrick runs so many deep routes that to be able to spell him and keep his legs fresh, having another good return man is really big.”
Ings ranks first in the league for average return yardage per game (22.1). Lindsey is second (21.5).
Therein lies Lindsey’s value to the Storm. Currently one of the league’s top returners, Lindsey is content to share the spotlight with Ings for the betterment of the team. He doesn’t sulk about his limited opportunities; he prepares intensely to be ready for the chances he does receive. In practice, he perfects his craft in all three phases of the game because he never knows where he’ll be needed that particular week.
Think of him as the Storm’s duct tape. Wherever the team might have a hole, Lindsey is there to patch things up.
“It’s really not tough because in practice I work on everything: jack linebacker, receiver, even defensive back,” he said. “Whatever situation they put me in, I’m always ready because I’ve practiced it. I’m ready for it. Whatever they do, I’m ready.”
On the Storm roster, Lindsey is listed as a wide receiver/kick returner.
But those two positions don’t begin to encapsulate everything Lindsey does for the Storm.
Perhaps he should have an “E” next to his name.
What position does Lindsey play for the Storm?