Jason Boltus does not need a coach's analysis to realize how well he has played for the Orlando Predators.
The Arena Football League team's first-year quarterback has his younger brother, Jeremy, for that. All the way from Afghanistan.
"He reads me back my stats and says 'good game' or 'bad game,''' Jason said.
As the Preds (3-0) prepare to face the host New Orleans VooDoo at 8:30 Thursday night, a big reason for their emergence after two subpar seasons has been Boltus. He ranks second in the AFL with 16 touchdown passes and has completed 57 percent of his passes.
Jeremy Boltus, a first lieutenant in the Army stationed in southern Afghanistan, follows his brother's career closely. He'll check the progress of games online very early in the morning and can identify with the ups and downs of an athlete's life.
He is missing this season with the Denver Outlaws of Major League Lacrosse because of his deployment.
"I'd say what separated [Jeremy] from everybody else is, he had a very strong belief in himself,'' Army lacrosse coach Joe Alberici said. "He's not very talkative about it, but it certainly motivated him."
Said Jeremy via email: "A normal day in Afghanistan so far has been pretty hectic. We are currently improving our firing point so it has protection from indirect fire, as well as a concealed area to shoot from."
Jeremy, 24, leads 25 troops in a unit in charge of two M777 howitzers, which are large artillery cannons. With a group of soldiers preparing to return home, Jeremy and his troops have been training since they were deployed on Feb. 26 to take over the job until mid-September.
"He was always the baby," Jason, 27, said with a smile. "Every time he acted up, we [Jason and his twin, Jeff] put him in his place. He has always been tough."
Jeremy is thankful he can follow Jason's games online.
"The Internet isn't the best here," Jeremy said. "However it has been working so far so I have no complaints."
Neither do the men's parents, for the most part.
From their home near Syracuse, N.Y., Gregory and Mary Ann Boltus watch Jason and the Predators play every game. Last week, they saw their son get sacked four times and knocked down on seven other occasions in a victory against the Tampa Bay Storm.
The Boltuses only can imagine what Jeremy is doing overseas.
"I don't know which is worse," Mary Ann said. "Not knowing what your son is doing over in Afghanistan or watching your son on TV get the crap beat out of him.
"It's still a scary thing. You hear of these roadside bombs. All you can do is just pray and hope they're safe over there. Out of his graduate class, he is the last to go over there, and everybody has come back safe."
Jason's arena-league games provide a small break for Jeremy's, though. And a chance to send another text message.
Jason is appreciative of any words, encouraging or otherwise.
"Every day that they are over there is another day I am here doing what I love, all because of what him and all the servicemen are doing," Jason said.
Until Jeremy comes home.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun