Running off at the typewriter …
A message to my fellow Central Floridians: If you want to see Orlando Apollos quarterback Garrett Gilbert, then you better hurry and get your tickets because — mark my words — he’ll be on an NFL roster next year.
My prediction: Gilbert will go down as the Kurt Warner of the Alliance of American Football.
Just as Warner went from the Arena League to NFL stardom, I believe Gilbert has all of talent and intangibles to go from the Alliance to a starting quarterback job in the NFL. He’s big, he’s tough, he’s smart, he’s athletic and his passes are prettier than Angelina Jolie.
Gilbert — heading into Saturday’s home game against the Arizona Hotshots (Somebody asked me this question today: Why do all of the Alliance teams sound like the fictional teams from football movies?) — is the odds-on favorite to win the Alliance MVP, has led the Apollos to a 5-0 record and leads the league in passing with 1,357 yards, eight TDs and zero interceptions. By the way, how about a raucous, rousing standing ovation for Apollos GM Tim Ruskell, who plucked Gilbert seventh in the Alliance QB Draft, meaning six other teams mistakenly passed on him.
“He certainly should have an opportunity to play in the NFL,” Apollos Head Ball Coach Steve Spurrier told me earlier this week. “He’s got a natural God-given gift of throwing the football. He’s a beautiful passer who throws a perfect spiral almost every time. Our receivers rarely have drops because his passes are so catchable. And I love his attitude. He does extra work and he’s totally invested in this team. He’s voted captain every week by his teammates, so that should tell you something.”
Gilbert shies away from talking about his NFL future because he says his primary goal is to be the best quarterback and best leader he can be for the Apollos. The fact is, he could have signed a “futures” contract in the NFL, but he turned that down to play in the Alliance.
Why? Because he wanted a chance to actually play instead of bouncing around the NFL as a little-used taxi squad player. He’s been on five NFL scout teams and even has a Super Bowl ring from when he was on the New England Patriots practice squad as a rookie.
“To be able to play football again has been a blast,” Gilbert says. “Playing NFL preseason football is fun, but you only get a few series here and there. The Alliance is just what I hoped it would be — a chance to play extended, meaningful action against great competition and guys who have been in the league.
“Everybody here wants to get back to the NFL and I’m not different, but right now I’m not thinking about the NFL. I’m trying to be the best quarterback I can be for the Apollos every single day. My job and my responsibility is to try to lead this team to a championship.”
So far, so good.
Quick correction: I misspoke earlier. Gilbert’s passes are pretty, but not as pretty as Angelina Jolie.
SHORT STUFF: Ugh, did you see what happened to the UCF Knights in their AAC Tournament quarterfinal on Friday? They suffered the worst downfall in Memphis since Elvis discovered the fried peanut butter and banana sandwich. … Ah, Tiger, don’t feel so bad about hitting two in the water on the No. 17 Island Hole at The Players Championship on Friday and carding a quadruple bogey. The last time I played No. 17 at TPC, I hit five in the water, gave up and put an ‘X’ on my scorecard. … Speaking of the The Players Championship, late, great golf writer Dan Jenkins, who passed away last week at the age of 90, didn’t think “TPC” was a fitting abbreviation for such a prestigious tournament. “TPC,” he once wrote, “sounds like something kids sniff.” … LSU athletics director Joe Alleva finally did something right a few days ago when he suspended his basketball coach — accused cheater Will Wade — and, yet, his own fans showered Alleva with vile, profane chants during the team’s final home game. Just goes to show that fans don’t care if their coach is lying, cheating or stealing — as long as he’s winning. … Speaking of dumb fans, I wonder if those spoiled UF basketball supporters who’ve been lamenting for much of the season about how “terrible” Mike White is as a head coach will finally shut their stupid mouths after Friday’s victory over top-seeded LSU in the SEC Tournament pretty much locked up a bid to the Dance for the Gators? …
Considering the Jacksonville Jaguars’ abysmal track record of identifying quality quarterbacks, I don’t have much faith in their signing of big-money free agent Nick Foles. In fact, if you ask me, he’s Foles, er, Fool’s Gold. … Welcome to our alternative universe where the Magic are in the playoff hunt, but LeBron and the Lakers are not. This makes me even happier than when I found a $10 bill in the Publix parking lot last week. …Gators coach Dan Mullen says Feleipe Franks will not necessarily be his starting quarterback when UF opens the season on Aug. 24 against Miami right here in Orlando. If you believe that, I’ve got a nice piece of prime oceanfront property I’ll sell you in Topeka. … Did you see where Urban Meyer has been hired by Fox as a college football analyst? Don’t you just love coaches who’ve always hated the media and then they become a part of media just as soon as it’s convenient — and profitable? …
Did you see where ESPN’s NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy said the Lakers should at least investigate the possibility of trading LeBron? Consequently, somebody asked the other day what I would give up for LeBron if I were the Magic. Answer: I’d give up the entire roster, Cinderella Castle, Shaq’s unsold Isleworth mansion, the Epcot Ball, and the entire fleet of swan boats at Lake Eola. … Good for the Utah Jazz for permanently banning that fan who spewed hateful, vile venom at Russell Westbrook earlier this week. When will idiot fans learn that the price of a ticket does not give you carte blanche to say anything you want to another human being? And another thing: Why do NBA fans with court-side seats think this gives them the right to have an ongoing dialogue with players? Question: Do people who sit in the front row of a Broadway play try to engage the actors in conversation during the performance? …
LAST WORD: A musher named Nicolas Petit lost a huge lead in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race earlier this week when his dog team refused to keep going after he yelled at one of the animals. A dog named Joey had been fighting with another dog on the team and jumped it during a break. “I yelled at Joey, and everybody heard the yelling,” Petit told the Iditarod Insider website. “And then [the dogs] wouldn't go anymore. Anywhere.” What’s this — canine athletes staging a mutiny against their disciplinarian coach? Who do these dogs think they are — NBA players? Or did the dogs have every right to boycott the yelling, screaming musher based on the fact that he violated their CBA — Collective Barking Agreement?