Quarterback Shane Stafford played eight seasons in the Arena Football League, including five seasons with the Tampa Bay Storm (2001-02, 2004-06), two seasons with the Orlando Predators (2007-08) and one with the Dallas Vigilantes (2010). In his five seasons as Tampa Bay’s starting signal caller, Stafford took the Storm to four postseason appearances and passed for over 4,500 yards and 80+ touchdowns in each of his final two seasons with the Storm (’05 and ’06).
By the end of his eight-year AFL career, Stafford had amassed 24,525 yards, 451 touchdowns, 79 interceptions while completing 64.2% of his passes and posting a career 110.8 QB rating (according to his ArenaFan.com stats).
After going undrafted out of the University of Connecticut in 1999, Stafford’s football career began in 2000 with a one-year stint with the af2’s Tallahassee Thunder squad. During his pro career, Stafford also had brief NFL stints with the Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots and the NFL Europe’s Scottish Claymores (2003 season).
Stafford took the time to speak with the All-Out Blitz regarding his quarterbacking career and his post-playing days endeavors:
All-Out Blitz: You retired back in 2010, and you’ve been doing some coaching and recruiting for NCSA over the last few years. Can you tell us a little bit about some of the projects/jobs you’ve been working on over the last few years?
Shane Stafford: “I’m no longer with them (NCSA––National Collegiate Scouting Association). What that was is it’s a service that helps place high school athletes into college––not just football, but all high school student athletes. It helps them with the recruiting process. So I was working with kids and families doing that but like I said I no longer work with them. I’m doing stuff now training kids down here in Florida, and I just finished up consulting with the Tampa Bay Storm on a voluntary basis. It was good getting back on the field.
I’m looking into some other business ventures as well. I’m going to be going back to school to get my physical therapy license and getting involved with that. And in the meantime in the Tampa Bay area I’m working with a couple partners in terms of getting a facility where we’re going to be working with kids. So I’m just trying to stay busy.”
AOB: In terms of your playing days, what’s one thing you miss most about your playing career? Do you miss suiting up and being out on the field?
Stafford: “Not so much the playing part. It’s more the camaraderie in the locker room. Just the working out and the practices with the guys. Oddly enough, you do miss the practices when you’re not playing anymore. But I don’t really miss the playing––my body tells me that every morning when I wake up. I’m past the playing part, but just the fans, the support and that whole atmosphere––I definitely miss that.
I had a chance to go to Storm games here down in Tampa and it was pretty awesome being a part of that again and getting involved (with the team). With the way the Storm is running the organization now, it’s certainly heading in the right direction. With Derrick Brooks (part owner and Team President) doing what he’s doing and (head coach) Lawrence Samuels doing everything he can as the coach now, they’re fun to be around.”
AOB: Speaking of the Storm, you played two different stints with Tampa Bay. Who were some of the best players you played with, and do you still try and stay in touch with some of your former teammates?
Stafford: “Oh yeah, absolutely. Like I said, I’m still doing things with the Storm, going into the offices and watching film. As far as the best player I’ve played with at the Storm, hands down Lawrence Samuels. He’s an all-time great. He’s in the Hall of Fame as a player, and he’s one of the great ones. There are many others that I played with but he definitely stands out as one of the best.”
AOB: You went undrafted out of the University of Connecticut. What would you say was the hardest part about going undrafted and trying to start your playing career right out of college? Do you have any advice for other guys that go undrafted?
Stafford: “Oh yeah, the hardest thing about going undrafted is that you’re fighting an uphill battle. The whole financial aspect comes into play as well. When you go into camp, even though they say everyone starts on an even slate, it’s not necessarily true. First rounders, you’re making the team. But six rounders might not, and the undrafted guys are more than likely not (making the team) because they don’t really have any financial obligation to have you on the team. It’s just another guy in camp, or a “camp body.”
In terms of advice to the undrafted guys: you can’t open up enough doors. Just when you think you’re doing enough, you can always do more. I remember sitting down and we called every NFL team, we called player personnel, we called every Arena Football team, we called every CFL team, we called every NFL Europe team. We literally called every single one until finally someone gave me a chance.”
AOB: So you’d say that’s the toughest part about going undrafted, is the financial aspect of it––since your job security isn’t quite stable until you finally do get that chance?
Stafford: “Oh yeah, I would say it is. When I was playing af2 in Tallahassee, we were only getting $250 a week, I was laying sod during the day. One of my teammates and I would go lay sod in 95 degree heat in Tallahassee and then go to practice at 6:00, and we would practice from 6-8:30. Looking back it makes it so much more worth it, being that you have the chance to put that hard work in and have it end up paying off.
The big thing I would say too, to up-and-comers, is to stay ready because it’s a shame if you get that call or that opportunity and you didn’t stay in shape or do everything you needed to do. Just make sure you stay in shape because you never know when it’ll be coming. When I got a call from Cleveland (the NFL’s Cleveland Browns) on a Thursday evening, I was flying out Friday––the next morning. The same thing when the Buccaneers called me. The Bucs called me up after I got back from NFL Europe. I was up in Pennsylvania, driving up to Connecticut. I had just driven over a bridge in upstate New York and I get a call from my agent. He said ‘I need you get on a flight in about three hours.’ So you’ve got to be ready at all times.”
AOB: So what would you say, from your personal experience, is the biggest difference between the NFL and the Arena Football League?
Stafford: “One has 11 players on the field and the other only has eight. Honestly that’s the biggest difference, the size of the field and the players. Arena Football, from a quarterback’s perspective, is actually a lot faster. When I went back up to the big field it seemed a lot slower, the throwing windows and passing lanes were bigger. The arena league really helped me from the standpoint of slowing the game down. The other thing is it’s a lot more mental as far as preparation in the outdoor game than the indoor game. You have to deal with schemes, blitzes, stunts and everything. That’s probably the biggest difference from a QBs perspective.”
AOB: We’ve got one last question for you. You’ve played eight seasons in the AFL and went to the postseason many of those seasons. What would you say is your proudest moment in the AFL?
Stafford: “The most memorable game for me was my first playoff win out in Los Angeles (a 66-41 win while with the Storm in 2002). We played the LA Avengers out there. We went out there earlier that season and got stomped by them. Tony Graziani, Chris Jackson and Greg Hopkins, they were all on that team, so they had some pretty big names. They beat the crap out of us. And we had to win five out of our last six to get into the playoffs that year, and we ended up doing that. So we went up to play LA and we snuck in there as one of the lowest seeds. Everyone had us losing that game and we went out there and beat the snot out of them. That was probably the defining moment in my arena career. Without that game I don’t know if I’d have stayed the starting quarterback.”
AOB: Thanks for taking the time to answer our Arena Football League questions today, Shane.
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Shane’s Tampa Bay Storm have made some solid roster moves this off-season to bolster the roster of the 8-10 Storm squad as head coach Lawrence Samuels enters his second season at the helm of the franchise in 2015.
You can keep up with Shane and his future endeavors on Twitter @shanestafford14.
Photo: J.L. Meric/WireImage.com