Rowley, Dietz Take Rocky Road to ArenaBowl XXIII
One started in Finland and stopped in Cincinnati, Louisville, and Kansas City. The other spent time in South Carolina, Columbus, Wilkes-Barre, Manchester, and Arkansas. However, on Friday night, both Tampa Bay Storm QB Brett Dietz and Spokane Shock QB Kyle Rowley will take to the field for ArenaBowl XXIII.
Dietz and Rowley have crossed paths once before. In 2006, Rowley led his brand new team, the Manchester Wolves, up against Dietz's Louisville Fire in af2 play. Rowley was in his first ever start with the Wolves, coached by former AFL veteran QB Ben Bennett. Dietz made his home debut with the Fire. That day, neither quarterback put forth a solid effort, but in the end, it was Rowley's Manchester side that came through with a 39-34 victory.
This isn't Dietz's first rodeo with the Shock either. During Media Day, Tampa Bay's signal caller was quick to point out to me how great his day was against this team in the past. He said, “I threw for eight touchdowns and ran for another two. The next week I threw for 12 touchdowns.” Dietz finished that day going 25-of-35 for 259 yards and those eight touchdowns through the air.
Dietz only spent one full season in the deuce before getting the call up from HC Tim Marcum, who was dealing with a number of injuries to his quarterbacks in 2007. Little did he know that snaring Dietz from the practice squad of the Kansas City Brigade would be giving him his franchise quarterback for a number of years to come.
While Dietz moved up to the AFL relatively quickly, Rowley took a significantly more difficult path to this point in his career. He only played for three weeks in Manchester before getting dealt to the Bossier City Battle Wings. Rowley was dealt to Bossier in exchange for then backup QB Brian Zbydniewski, who ironically finds himself playing with Spokane now.
Bennett was quoted following that trade by talking down on his former quarterback. “Kyle ran hot and cold for us and I need consistency.”
Little did Bennett know that he was losing out on one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to suit it up in the af2.
Rowley was traded from the Battle Wings to the Shock the next week. Once he took over the reins in Spokane, it was all uphill from there. The Shock's last loss that season was ironically at the hands of Dietz's Fire. Rowley took over and won the team's final six regular season games and won the ArenaCup in his first postseason appearance.
That postseason, Rowley was on fire, completing 70.4 percent of his passes for 728 yards with 15 TD tosses without a pick. It was Spokane's first ArenaCup in its inaugural season.
Rowley next went into the AFL, where he was a backup for the Kansas City Brigade, Philadelphia Soul, and Grand Rapids Rampage. He never took a snap in three seasons, save on special teams as a holder.
From there, it was back to the af2. The Arkansas Twisters were his next stop, and he played there for the next two seasons. While in Arkansas, he led the team to two postseason appearances, won Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2008 and ultimately threw for the most passing yards in a single season in af2 history by throwing for 4,693 yards in 2009.
Though af2 statistics are difficult to come by, our sources show Rowley having thrown for 17,251 yards and 361 touchdowns in his career in the lower arena league.
Getting a chance to play in Spokane once again was something that Rowley wasn't going to pass on. He said that this was an ideal situation for him because it gave him a chance to earn a starting job as opposed to just being promised one.
Head coach Rob Keefe knew that he had a good one almost from the get go in training camp. “We realized after about five days. His competitiveness and his drive to be the best is unparalleled. The guy just doesn't know how to turn it off.”
Both Dietz and Rowley have made their head coaches proud this season. Both put up fantastic numbers in the regular season. Rowley threw for 4,428 yards and 100 touchdowns. Dietz went for 5,034 and 106 respectively.
Dietz has nothing but the utmost respect for his adversary in this upcoming game. “He's got the head, the mentality, and he definitely has all the throws,” said Tampa Bay's signal caller. “He's definitely one of my favorite quarterbacks.”
In the playoffs, both have thrown for 14 touchdowns, and both have had to come forth with big moments in clutch situations. Now, both Brett Dietz and Kyle Rowley are going to play for the game's biggest prize on Friday night.
Adam Markowitz is a freelance sports writer living in Orlando. As a Florida State graduate with degrees in music and history, the garnet and gold will forever be a part of him, but he bleeds the black and red of the Orlando Predators like none other. Adam has been following the AFL since 1991 and has been at well over 200 games, including 13 ArenaBowls. You can follow Adam on Twitter @AFLGuru.