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McPherson Readies for AFL Return

Adam Markowitz
Sunday October 5, 2014

Last season wasn't exactly a banner year for quarterbacks around the Arena Football League. It was the first time in the AFL v2.0 era that only two men threw for more than 100 touchdowns, and it was the first time since 2002 that no one completed even 68 percent of his passes. Most teams who are scrambling for a signal caller are trying to run down either Dan Raudabaugh or Erik Meyer, the two major free agents who remain on the market. The best man available though, very well could be Adrian McPherson, who has readied himself for a fourth stint in the arena league.

Injuries have played a huge role in McPherson's career. A once budding two-sport star in high school in Florida, McPherson's injuries have gone from the surreal to the sublime. Just since 2013, he has had three major injuries that have cost him tons of games. AD Mac suffered a leg injury that cut his MVP-esque season with the Tampa Bay Storm short in 2013, and before heading to the Calgary Stampeders in 2014, McPherson had surgery for a sports hernia. When he reached Calgary though, it was revealed that he had a broken thumb on his right throwing hand, and that essentially got him released from the Stamps before he ever had a chance to prove what he had to bring to the table.

This is nothing new for McPherson, though. He had his shot in the big time with the New Orleans Saints in the NFL in 2005 after playing for the Indiana Firebirds for a year. In the preseason though, McPherson was literally run over in a golf cart by T-Rac, the mascot for the Tennessee Titans, and the knee injury that he suffered as a result caused him to miss the whole season. For all intents and purposes, that ended McPherson's NFL career.

With all of that behind him though, McPherson says that he is in the best shape of his life.

"I'm working out every day, running every day. This is probably the best I've felt ever," said McPherson. "I feel young. I was in Canada for six years. I was backing up so my body wasn't getting beaten up, and I was able to learn how to be a quarterback."

It's tough to really imagine this, but McPherson, in spite of the fact that he has been under contract to five different AFL teams, two different CFL teams and an NFL team, is only 31 years old. He hasn't taken nearly as many hits as the average quarterback has at his age, as he spent the prime of his career backing up the legendary Anthony Calvillo with the Montreal Alouettes. When it was clear that McPherson wasn't going to get a shot to start with the Als any time in the near future, he decided to move back to the AFL in 2013 to give it another go after brief stints with the Austin Wranglers and Grand Rapids Rampage in 2007 and 2008.

The fit for McPherson and the Storm was a perfect one. Tampa Bay was in dire need of a quarterback in 2013 after going through a plethora of subpar pivots in the two prior years. Finally, after seeing Danny Southwick, Matt Grothe, Mike Potts, Grant Gregory, Brian Zbydniewski, Jevan Snead, Steve Wasil, and Nick Hill all try their hand as the starting quarterback for the Storm over two years (Snead only started in the preseason before getting cut), McPherson seemed to be the answer. The Florida boy was coming back home, and when he did, he threw for 59 TDs and five picks with 31 rushing touchdowns, the most by any quarterback in a season in the history of the league.

Then came the leg injury. The Storm were 7-5 when the McPherson injury occurred.

"I feel like I let my team down when I got injured," McPherson said.

The Storm lost their last six games of the regular season, and they were beaten by the Jacksonville Sharks in the opening round of the playoffs, ultimately costing Head Coach Dave Ewart his job.

McPherson was never heard from again in the AFL… until now.

It's easy to forget that McPherson was on a pace to shatter all sorts of records in 2013. Had he played the full 18-game season and stayed his course, he would have thrown for over 4,500 yards, thrown for around 85 TDs against just seven picks, and most impressively, he would have had almost 600 rushing yards and 45 rushing TDs. There's no doubt that he could have been the MVP that year, and whichever team grabs McPherson in this offseason is going to hope to rekindle that type of magic that could make him one of the biggest difference makers in the league.

For our money, the only two teams with their quarterback situations on complete lockdown for 2015 are the Arizona Rattlers (Nick Davila) and the Pittsburgh Power (Tommy Grady). There are 11 other teams in the AFL that would be getting a huge upgrade if they were to bring in McPherson, and AD Mac has the ability to be the best in the game, even beyond the great Davila, the three-time ArenaBowl champion.

McPherson has two championships to his credit from his time with Montreal, but even he admits that it would be much different to quarterback a team to an ArenaBowl rather than being a backup as he was in French Canada.

"My dad and I, we talk about that all the time. I have two rings, but they're not mine," said McPherson. "It wasn't my team. It was AC's team. I want to be a part of something like that again where I play from start to finish, and that drives me every single day. So I'm just looking forward to another opportunity if it's the right opportunity, and I'm working hard day in, day out right now to achieve that."

So what is the right opportunity for McPherson?

"I've stated in the past and now that I don't want to go anywhere if you're not going to give me the opportunity to compete for the starting quarterback job," declared the 2004 Rookie of the Year.

You'd think that a man who has had to travel all over the place as a backup quarterback in his career would have a chip on his shoulder for all of the teams, all of the coaches, and all of the general managers and owners who passed on him. However, McPherson's maturity shows that he isn't interested in the 12 teams that do pass on a chance to bring him in this year for the 2015 season. He's only interested in the one that does.

"I think the one team that, if I decide to play and if I get picked up by a team, I think that one team will be extremely pleased," said McPherson. "For the other 13 or 12, I wish them the best, and there's no hard feelings. But for that one, I think they'll be extremely impressed with the decision they've made."

Adam Markowitz is an accountant and 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 16 ArenaBowls. You can follow Adam on Twitter @AFLGuru.
The opinions expressed in the article above are only those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts, opinions, or official stance of ArenaFan Online or its staff, or the Arena Football League, or any AFL or af2 teams.
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