On June 21, 2008, the Storm routed Los Angeles 72-47 in front of 17,981 at the St. Pete Times Forum. Little did fans know it was the last time they would see the most storied franchise in the Arena Football League take the field for some time.
After financial concerns prompted the league to shut down in 2009, the Storm returns at 8 tonight as it opens the season at Tulsa. Despite the lengthy layoff, coach Tim Marcum thinks the five-time league champion will be embraced again quickly.
"This community loves the Storm and the AFL brand of football," Marcum said of the franchise that routinely led the league in attendance. "And we love the fans that support us. I couldn't be more excited to get this team back on the field."
Marcum pointed to the Storm's new ownership group, headed by Todd Boren, as a reason the league is back — and here to stay.
"(Boren) is an absolute AFL junkie," he said.
"To be honest, it's probably more important who owns the team than coaches it."
Boren, who has been part of ownership groups in Arizona and Orlando, said buying a majority stake in the Storm was "a dream come true."
"I've been an Arena fan from Day 1," Boren said. "I started out as a fan out in the stands and slowly worked my way in. Now I have the Dallas Cowboys of Arena football. You can't beat that."
Marcum said the anticipation has been building among the players since training camp began three weeks ago.
"You can see it in their eyes and their smiles," he said. "These guys don't do it for the money. They love to play the game and are ready to go."
Perhaps no player is more eager than Tyrone Timmons, who starred at Tampa Bay Tech. Timmons was inactive for the first 11 games of 2008. But all he did in the final five was catch 23 passes for 267 yards and 13 touchdowns then was named the team's rookie of the year.
"It was like as soon as I got my chance, the rug was pulled out from underneath me," Timmons said. "I can't wait to get back out there."
Timmons and quarterback Brett Dietz, the 2007 league rookie of the year, head an offense that returns five of eight starters from 2008. There are fresh faces on defense. But the line should be a strength with newly signed pass-rushing specialist Jermaine Smith and 2008 league defensive player of the year finalist Tim McGill returning.
After a year off, it remains to be seen how the Arena league is received. But Boren has little doubt success is inevitable.
"I always like to say this game is like drinking water out of a firehose," Boren said.
"It's the right price. It's exciting and in your face. And don't blink because you might miss something."