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Former USF Bulls receiver Amarri Jackson steps up to help Tampa Bay Storm

For Hank Edwards, it was an unfortunate break. For Amarri Jackson, it was a break he needed.

When the Edwards, the Storm's standout receiver, broke his right hand shortly before the game at Orlando on May 6, Jackson's role took a significant uptick. The rookie had become increasingly involved in the offense before Edwards' injury, but he was about to become front and center.

"They were big shoes to fill," said Jackson, who played at USF, "but it was time to step up."

And he has done just that over the past five games, during which the Storm has gone 4-1 and revived a season that started 2-6.

"Things have been starting to click for me," said Jackson, who was released after Bucs minicamps in 2008 and 2009 and training camp with Hamilton of the Canadian Football League in 2010.

"The game has been starting to slow down."

In the past six games, Jackson, 25, has led the Storm in receiving three times and surpassed 100 yards four times. His biggest game came in last week's 46-44 win against Orlando, when he caught 11 passes for 151 yards and five touchdowns.

In all, he has caught 79 passes for 1,000 yards and 22 touchdowns.

"(Jackson) always has a smile on his face, and he's a great kid who's becoming a pro," Storm coach Dave Ewart said. "The guy is 6 feet 5 and runs a 4.4 40 (yard dash). He's got all the tools."

And with Edwards back, the Storm now has three legitimate threats. Jackson credits Edwards and former USF receiver Huey Whittaker (team highs of 113 catches, 1,257 yards and 25 touchdowns this season) for teaching him the ins and outs of the Arena game.

"From film work to weights to on the field, both those guys have taught me so much in terms of how to be a pro," Jackson said. "They are both franchise guys, and I stay in their ears as much as I can."

And although it remains unlikely, Jackson believes the Storm can reach the postseason. Tonight will be a major hurdle. Jacksonville has won 12 in a row since losing its opener.

"We have all the tools, and each time, it's a one-game season for us," Jackson said. "We have been our biggest opponent all season, so we just need to go out and play our game."

Kaleita returns: Tampa Bay's offensive line will get a boost tonight with the return of Tom Kaleita, who has been out since May 24 with a sprained ligament in his left knee. To make room, the team released defensive back Terrance Washington.

.Tonight

Storm at Jacksonville

When/where: 7; Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena TV/radio: BHSN; 1250-AM

Former USF Bulls receiver Amarri Jackson steps up to help Tampa Bay Storm 06/24/11 [Last modified: Friday, June 24, 2011 9:57pm]
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