This One's Special for Rattlers, Davila
CLEVELAND - The Arizona Rattlers are once again champions. There was never a doubt that they were the superior team against the Cleveland Gladiators in the biggest romp in ArenaBowl history. However, the 72-32 victory proved that Nick Davila really is as special as it gets in this league. This one though, was perhaps a little more special for him.
Head Coach Kevin Guy spoke after the ArenaBowl about all of the things that the team went through this year. Many of the players celebrated the births of their children. Many had to go through surgeries, including Guy himself, who had gall bladder surgery in May. But perhaps the biggest devastation of the season was when Davila lost his father on May 30th to complications from an artificial heart he had put in just a month earlier.
Winning a third straight championship is special for sure, and it should be celebrated like hardly anything has been celebrated in AFL history. For Davila though, winning this one was more about his dad than anything else.
In passing conversation at Media Day, Davila told me just how special this one would be. He admitted that he wasn't just playing for his dad in this one, but he was always playing for his dad for the rest of his career and the rest of his life.
After his third straight ArenaBowl win, Davila talked about his father's influence on his play this year.
”He was sick going into the season and I told him when he was in the hospital that I was going to give him the best season I'd have.
“I worked my tail off in the weight room. I talked to Coach Guy, all the coaches and (owner) Ron Shurts. They had my back. Through all the trials and tribulations that I went through in the off-season, the one thing that was consistent for me is playing the game that I love, which is football.”
“I had a lot of emotional stuff going on off the field, but when I stepped in between those lines it was home to me. I wanted to go out there and play for him. I know he's looking down from heaven with a big smile and he's proud of his boy.”
If ArenaBowl XXVII was a tribute to his father, Davila honored him to the tune of near perfection. The southpaw went 19-of-24 for 237 yards with eight TDs and an INT. His 79.2 completion percentage? The second highest in league history in a title game with a minimum of 20 passes. Eight touchdowns? The third most ever in an ArenaBowl. His quarterback rating was 130.0. The 72 points scored? One point shy of an ArenaBowl record. Ten total offensive TDs? Tied for the most ever in an ArenaBowl.
Yes, it was legitimate a maestro of a performance from Davila. There's more, though.
Davila has now thrown for 1,156 yards and 31 TDs in his career in ArenaBowls. He broke the record for the most passing yards in a career for ArenaBowls in the second quarter, and he broke the record for the most completions in an ArenaBowl career in the third quarter. The career touchdown mark? Davila held that record coming into this game with 23, three more than Mark Grieb, who needed four ArenaBowl appearances to match what Davila did in three. Now, the Latin Laser is 11 ahead of the field in touchdowns, and no one who is active is even within 20 touchdowns of him.
In the end, perhaps the most important stat is three. That's the number of ArenaBowls that the Rattlers have won in the last three seasons. That makes Davila just the second quarterback in AFL history to win three titles (Jay Gruden, 4), and it makes him the first to win it three times in a row.
Three rings are nice for Davila. Honoring his father though, is the reward of all rewards.