Stephen Panasuk has played football in so many locations that he was bound to be noticed – and not just by flight attendants.
Panasuk just didn’t know he was being noticed, at least not by Force coach Paco Martinez, who tracked down the well-traveled quarterback during the offseason.
“I asked him that, actually, after the first week I was here. I was like, ‘How did you even find me?’ ” Panasuk said. “This is a tribute to Paco as a coach. He said he watches all the other leagues … and he keeps his eyes out for players who would fit his offense or fit his team.”
On a team full of mainstays, Panasuk has been a perfect fit so far during his first year in Wichita. He guides the offense leading Champions Indoor Football in scoring and has helped the Force win its first three games.
Wichita is Panasuk’s fifth stop in his five professional seasons. It’s not an uncommon story for a minor-league athlete, but unique because of the situation he inherited. Most of the Force’s players have been together for multiple seasons, so the 27-year-old Panasuk had to blend in quickly.
“You just come in and you keep quiet for a couple days before you can grasp a leadership role,” Panasuk said. “Just so you can see who the leaders are on the team, who are the guys who need to be led. You come in with a great attitude and a great work ethic, and the guys have no choice but to take you in because that’s what they’re about here.”
Panasuk, a New Jersey native, has completed a league-best 77.6 percent of his passes and has thrown 12 touchdowns and just one interception. The Force has talent at every position so Panasuk isn’t relied upon, on a given night, to be the difference between winning and losing.
In the bigger picture, though, that might be what he is. The Force used eight quarterbacks and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last season. Panasuk has figured out the intricacies of the indoor game just in time to make Wichita perhaps the league’s best – the Force is CIF’s only 3-0 team.
“My rookie year … I was pretty lost,” Panasuk said. “It’s just seeing things differently (now). This game is so fast, so as a quarterback if it slows down even just a little bit, you’re ahead of the game. That’s what it’s been for me last year and definitely this year. I’m seeing all those smaller windows develop before anybody else can see it or adjust to it.”
Bloomington at Force
- When: 7:05 p.m. Friday
- Where: Intrust Bank Arena
- Records: Bloomington 1-2, Force 3-0
- Radio: KFH, 1240-AM, 98.7-FM