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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wild benefits from quarterback's success at pre-NFL draft workout

BY KOLLEN LONG
The Wichita Eagle

While most football fans in Denver don't think too highly of NFL prodigy Josh McDaniels, Wichita Wild supporters should be singing the coach's praises for his role in solving the team's quarterback dilemma.

After completing a superb NAIA career in 2010, Philip Staback felt beat up, worn down and ready to quit football.

"I was," he said at a recent practice, "pretty much done."

Then, unexpectedly, came an invitation to a St. Louis Rams pre-draft workout, where he earned some one-on-one time with McDaniels, the former Broncos coach and current offensive coordinator for the Rams.

Staback felt like he only threw "decent" during the session at Rams Park, but McDaniels was apparently impressed.

As pep talks go, a young QB couldn't ask for much more.

"When Josh McDaniels says he likes your arm... it was like, well, maybe I should hang in there and see what I can do," he said.

So Staback accepted an offer to join the struggling Wild, which had already started three quarterbacks (Alex Rouse, Shane Mascarenas and Brandon Walker) and been jilted by another (Ben Sankey).

Staback, a 6-foot-1 California native, quickly brought stability to the quarterback position, and he just might have the ability to salvage the season for the Indoor Football League team.

Despite a 3-6 record, the Wild remains in playoff contention entering tonight's game against Omaha (5-4) in Hartman Arena.

In Staback's debut, Wichita stunned the IFL with a 20-18 upset of Bloomington and, a week later, the Wild easily handled Bricktown 51-14.

Using the experience he gained running a spread offense in high school and later at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo., Staback has adapted quickly to the indoor game, completing 80 percent of his passes in the two starts for the Wild. He has tossed six touchdown passes and — this next statistic is vital — thrown no interceptions.

To understand why the turnover stat is key, consider that the team's other quarterbacks have accounted for 23 TD passes to 13 interceptions.

"I've been playing in the spread since my freshman year in school, so for the past eight years my focus has been getting completions and moving the ball," he said. "If the deep ball isn't there, take the short ones and keep moving the ball. Take what the defense gives you."

While Staback's completion percentage with the Wild is certainly impressive, it's only slightly above the norm for the indoor rookie. In 2010 for Lindenwood, he completed 75.3 percent of his throws while amassing 3,329 yards, 34 touchdowns and eight interceptions. The performance earned him offensive player of the year honors for the Heart of America Athletic Conference.

Interim coach Morris Lolar loves Staback's quick delivery and the way he spreads the ball around. In each of Staback's starts, he has completed passes to five different receivers.

Staback said he was fortunate to join a team with talented and savvy wide receivers.

"Seriously, that last game, five balls should have been dropped, but the guys made unbelievable catches," Staback said.

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