Whittaker, Jackson lead USF presence on Storm
TAMPA -- USF football has had a strong hometown presence on the Tampa Bay Storm this season, but never more so than Saturday, when three former Bulls combined for seven of the team's nine touchdowns in a 62-55 home win against the Pittsburgh Power.
Receivers Huey Whittaker and Amarri Jackson -- who were never teammates at USF but have become good friends -- each had three touchdowns for the Storm, and defensive end Terrence Royal added a 5-yard scoring run in a cameo at fullback. The Storm has had as many as six former Bulls on roster this season and could add former Bulls quarterback Matt Grothe this week.
"We're looking to run the table, so we had to start somewhere," said Whittaker, who leads the Storm in receptions (108), receiving yards (1,221) and touchdowns (24). "(The USF presence) is a good thing because a lot of the old fans from USF can come out and support the Storm. It's a family thing."
Jackson had 11 catches for 158 yards, including a wild juggling 27-yard catch that he tipped and came up with as he fell on his back for Tampa Bay's first lead in the second quarter. His last score, a 41-yarder with 5:11 left, marked the only time in the entire game that either team led by more than a touchdown.
Jackson had a long, patient path back to football, with only two preseason stints with the Bucs in his first three seasons after his USF days. In his first year of Arena ball, Jackson has 68 catches for 849 yards and 17 touchdowns, all second behind Whittaker for the Storm.
"God has a plan for everybody. I believe that. It's a blessing to be back on the field," Jackson said after Saturday's win. "After some injuries I've had, I'm going to take it one step at a time and let God lead the way. I love the people here in Tampa. It's Bull country. I still have a lot of friends in this area."
Whittaker's pro career has taken him all over the football world -- preseason stints with four different NFL teams, a year in NFL Europe, time in the UFL and now a second run with the Storm after successful Arena seasons with the Utah Blaze and Spokane Shock. Tampa is still home for him -- he starred at Springstead High in Spring Hill before making a name for himself at USF, and now lives in Riverview with his wife and two young daughters.
The Storm also have Royal and defensive lineman Jarriett Buie -- quarterback Grant Gregory, who piled up 20 touchdowns in a stint as starter, was released this past week. If Grothe joins the roster this week, it'll be even more of a USF reunion for the Storm, and Jackson likes the idea of his old quarterback joining the group.
"That would be a blessing to have another guy around that I'm familiar with," he said. "We've had some connections in the past. I wish Grothe the best -- we're the best of friends, and I just pray he can get on here or somewhere. He's a great player and a great person."