10 Questions with former Storm quarterback Brett Dietz
It’s been nearly five years since former Tampa Bay Storm quarterback Brett Dietz took off the pads for the final time. Of course, most Storm fans will remember Dietz’s time with the team during the 2007 season, and later returning for the successful 2010 campaign.
I had the chance to catch up with the former Storm QB this past week, and he was able to present a unique view of the past, the present, and even the future of the Tampa Bay Storm.
1) What do you miss most about playing in the Arena Football League?
Dietz: I miss the intensity of it and the feeling you get before the game as a QB. Arena Football is different than outdoor football in the sense that more is riding on the QB’s shoulders to produce on every possession. As a competitor I enjoyed the weight of the situation and the butterflies in the stomach. The other thing that every player misses after playing is the close relationships you build with your teammates. You go to battle with them every week and you feel a certain bond with them because of it especially the longer you play with that person. The next thing is the connection with the fans. AFL fans are passionate about the game and their teams. I loved the way the fans could get close to the players on the playing field but also after games and the whole attitude and mission statement of the AFL and our fans. Those aren’t the only things I miss, but I have to stop at some point.
2) Your former team, the Tampa Bay Storm, haven’t won a playoff game since 2010. What do you think about the overall state of the franchise right now?
Dietz: Every team and franchise goes through different phases. The team is just in a different phase as it was in 2010. As a player and a coach it is really frustrating when people try to compare one year to a different year because there are so many different variables that come into play. The team in 2015 and the franchise now is on the right path. They have a dedicated front office and a head coach in Lawrence Samuels that I have a great amount of respect for and I believe they are doing it the right way. With the salary structure in the AFL now it is difficult to get good players or any players to stick around for very long. Before the 2009 bankruptcy of the league, you could pay a franchise QB and the rest of your roster to stick around because it was our full time jobs. Now, in my opinion, the AFL doesn’t pay enough to support a family on that salary alone, so it’s harder to create a roster that stays together every year. In 2010, we returned probably 75% of our roster from our 2008 team so we had that foundation built to make an Arena Bowl run.
3) You were the last QB to lead the Storm to an ArenaBowl appearance. What do you remember most about that season?
Dietz: I remember that we were a team on a mission. We had a lot of guys back from that 2008 team and frustrated with not playing an AFL season in 2009 so we were motivated. I remember that everyone wanted to do whatever it took to get a win that week. We had a great mix of veteran leadership and young talent. We also had one of the best coaches in AFL history with Coach Marcum. It was a season that I will never forget and I still stay in contact with guys from my Storm days.
4) What advice, if any, would you give to the Storm team right now?? On building a winning culture, bouncing back after tough losses, etc….
Dietz: My advice is to be a great teammate. The closer a team is to one another and the more they have each other’s backs then good things will happen. Especially in the AFL when you only have 20 guys in uniform with you that night and you are on the road against a great team with a good crowd. You have to have your teammates back. That includes off the field as well, taking care of your body and making good choices so you can perform at your best every week. In 2010 we were all great teammates to one another so there was trust and accountability that carried us through to the end.
5) You once threw passes as a QB to Lawrence Samuels. Samuels, of course, is now the head coach of the Storm. What do you think of the job he’s done? What do you remember most about him?
Dietz: Law Dog is one of the most loyal teammates that I have ever played with. He had an intensity about him to compete while maintaining a calm demeanor. He was always there to make a great play when the team needed him the most. He played the bulk of his career when you played both ways and he made such an impact on the defensive side of the ball, which was not his natural position. He is a true Ironman.
6) Any particular moment or game you will always remember happened while wearing a Storm uniform?
Dietz: There are way too many to name or list here. I will never forget my rookie season. In 2007 the team was struggling (1-6) when I arrived and I was backing up AFL legend John Kaleo. In the first game that I dressed he broke his wrist in the second quarter so I was in. I had only been with the team for a week in 2007 (I was on the Storm practice squad in 2006 for the first 5 games). The feeling that I had when I stepped into the huddle for the first time is something I will never forget. The team was 1-6 and on comes a rookie QB who was only with the team for a week. We really had nothing to lose. We ended up beating Columbus that day and I proved that I could play. From that moment on the team got behind me and we went on a tear going 8-1 and ended up making the playoffs. That whole season was unbelievable for me and a moment I will never forget. I ended up winning co-Rookie of the Year and have a ton of memories that I could share.
7) Any places you used to love (or hate) playing in the league?
Dietz: I loved playing at home at the St. Pete Times Forum! It was truly the best arena to play in throughout the league; it was the biggest nicest and most crowded arena I played in throughout my career. It was also cool to play in arenas that you had heard of before like the Staples Center in LA. As a QB you hated to play in the arenas that had rounded endzones. In 2010 I hated to play in Tulsa and Spokane. They had great fans because of their time in the AF2 and it was their first time in the AFL and I think their fans really responded to that. Both of those cities hated the opposing QB.
8) Do you still stay in contact with any of the guys (players, coaches)? Attend any Storm games??
Dietz: I definitely stay in contact with the players and coaches that I have played with throughout the years, just as much as I do with my former high school and college teammates. I have attended several Storm games since 2010. My family vacations down in the Siesta Key / Sarasota area so Tampa is less than an hour and easy to go to games when I’m down there. It is great to see the game again in person and visit with some of the old fans that are still diehard Storm fans.
9) Do you still participate in any other football related activities?
Dietz: Yes, I’m the offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator at DePauw University. It’s a high academic DIII university about 45 minutes west of Indianapolis. It is a tremendous school and we have great coaches and players that make coaching here really enjoyable. I’m coaching QB’s and WR’s and I use quite a bit of knowledge I gained through good coaches and great players in the AFL with my college guys. We were 7-3 last year and getting better and better. I’m expecting bigger things this year. So football is still a big part of my life.
10) What can you say about the “War on I-4” rivalry between the Predators and Storm? What do you remember most about playing those games? Still the fiercest rivalry in the AFL?
Dietz: To me it will always be the best rivalry in the AFL. I remember we used to scrimmage them too in the preseason and every year there would be a fight that would breakout because it was hard to turn off the intensity between the two teams. Jay Gruden was coaching Orlando at the time and he is an intense guy that doesn’t like to lose. He was the QB for Coach Marcum and the Storm back when the Storm won several championships so it made the rivalry that much more intense. There were also a couple of guys that flip flopped teams so they were playing against their old team and coaches as well. When I arrived midseason with the Storm in 2007 the team had already played Orlando twice in the first six games of the season. So I only played them in 2008 and 2010. My record was 4-1 against them. The loss was the last game of the regular season in 2010 when we had already locked up our playoff position. Then we beat them 3 games later in the Conference Championship to go to the 2010 Arena Bowl. The intensity was always knocked up a bunch for that game and you could feel it through the stands and throughout the stadium. I always had to deal with Kenny “The Glove” McEntyre that game who is one of the best to ever play DB in the AFL.