EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was originally published on June 23, 2003:
Defensive specialist Omarr Smith left defending champion San Jose for a chance to start.
Lineman B.J. Cohen signed as a free agent after Orlando refused to pay what he believed he was worth.
Coach Tim Marcum had to beat back sentiment that he had lost his touch after a worst-ever 7-9 season.
This was for those who doubted them.
The Storm beat Arizona 43-29 in ArenaBowl XVII before an announced 20,496 Sunday at the St. Pete Times Forum to win its fifth championship, separating itself from the four-time champion Detroit Drive as the most decorated franchise in league history.
"I came here for one reason," Cohen said. "That's to win this game."
The title was Tampa Bay's first since 1996 and seventh for Marcum, who also won championships in Denver and Detroit.
It came against an Arizona team that had won nine of 10 and was seeking its third championship.
And it continued a year in which the Bucs claimed their first Super Bowl, the Lightning won a playoff round for the first time and Lou Piniella came home.
"We worked all year for this," receiver/defensive back Antoine "T.T." Toliver said. "Now we've got it."
Not even a back injury that sidelined quarterback John Kaleo could deter the Storm (15-4).
Pat O'Hara came off the bench to throw two touchdowns, and a defense that pointed the way all season forced five turnovers, including an Arena-Bowl record four fumbles.
Lawrence Samuels caught five passes for 109 yards and three touchdowns to become the first to win ArenaBowl MVP and ArenaBowl Ironman of the game.
David Saunders gave Marcum the obligatory Gatorade bath with 39 seconds left. Moments later, commissioner David Baker presented the James F. Foster Trophy to Marcum and owner Peter "Woody" Kern on a makeshift stage.
The trophy was passed among players like the Stanley Cup, and Toliver, Samuels and Keita Crespina swayed to We Are the Champions while fans cheered and snapped photographs from behind a barricade.
"We didn't win any individual awards, but we don't care," said Samuels, a finalist for the regular-season Ironman of the year. "This is the only award that matters."
The win marked the end of an emotional two days for former Orlando Predators Cohen, O'Hara and Clif Dell, who awoke Friday morning to learn that friend and former coach Fran Papasedero died late Thursday in a one-car accident.
Players from both teams wore decals with the former Orlando coach's initials on the backs of their helmets and remembered him with a moment of silence before the game. O'Hara said Papasedero even had a hand in his two touchdown passes to Samuels.
"I really thought Fran touched a couple of those (passes)," O'Hara said.
O'Hara, who had thrown only 14 passes in backup duty, was forced into action after Kaleo sprained his back early in the third quarter. He completed a 7-yard pass to Samuels on his first attempt and found Samuels in the back of the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown on the Storm's next possession.
Surrounded by television cameras after the game, O'Hara deflected the credit to Kaleo.
"This is John's ring," O'Hara said. "I'm just glad I could help him get it."
The defense also played a part, forcing Arizona quarterback Sherdrick Bonner, a first-team all-Arena selection, into three fumbles and an interception.
Kelvin Kinney returned a Bonner fumble 26 yards for a touchdown to give the Storm a 20-10 lead with 12:52 left in the second quarter. Samuels, Saunders and David White also recovered fumbles, and Smith's interception set up O'Hara's first touchdown pass.
The key, as Marcum said all week, was pressure on the quarterback.
"The line guys showed a lot of heart rushing the passer," Marcum said. "We fought hard. We only let up 29 points in an ArenaBowl, and it feels good. The pass rush on them really fueled our fire. The turnovers made the difference."
Basil Proctor's 1-yard run with 1:24 left in the first quarter gave the Storm a 14-10 lead it did not relinquish.
Dell set up the touchdown when he got behind Hamin Milligan for a 30-yard gain to the Arizona 3, then capped the drive with a two-point conversion pass to Saunders in the back right corner of the end zone.
Tampa Bay sandwiched Kinney's 26-yard fumble return for a touchdown and Kenny Stucker's 23-yard field goal around Bo Kelly's 8-yard run to take a 23-16 lead at the half.
Thirty minutes later, 12th-year receiver/linebacker Gary Compton was celebrating his first Are-naBowl title.
"After 12 years of playing this game, this is what it is all about," Compton said. "The ring on my finger symbolizes everything."