TAMPA — A few years ago, he wore a green jersey, dreamed of playing in the NFL and was faster than nearly every player who shared the field with him.
Tonight, DeAndrew Rubin returns home.
Rubin, who starred at USF, makes his first career start in the slot for the Storm when Tampa Bay (1-2) meets Arizona (2-1) at the St. Pete Times Forum.
For Rubin, it's a dream come true.
"Man, it's going to be like playing for USF all over again," he said. "Being back in Tampa is special and gives me extra motivation to go out there and put on a show."
Rubin's game has changed since his USF days. Gone is the electric, game-breaking speed. But Rubin has replaced that commodity with a keen understanding of how to play his position.
"He's been around, and he knows all the tricks of the trade," receiver Tyrone Timmons said. "He understands how to beat guys and has given me so much advice on how to do things the right way on the field."
After a record-breaking run with the Bulls — Rubin holds career marks for receiving touchdowns (14) and most catches in a single game (11) — the Dixie Hollins High product was selected by Green Bay in the seventh round of the 2003 draft.
He was the first wide receiver drafted out of USF, but he didn't stick with the Packers.
Rubin then made stops in Detroit and Indianapolis and with the Bucs before playing in NFL Europe. He then moved his game indoors, catching on with Orlando from 2006 to 2008.
"I had some of my best games playing here against Tampa," Rubin said. "The fans are so great. They really make it a special atmosphere."
Rubin started this season on the physically unable to perform list, but injuries to receivers Lawrence Samuels and Cleannord Saintil last week left the Storm scrambling at wideout.
"We are on the hunt, so to speak, for receivers," coach Tim Marcum said. "DeAndrew has been around this game for a while, and he brings that knowledge of how to play along with him."
And Rubin is passing along that knowledge to younger players. He has coached at Freedom High and is entering his second season working with the receivers at Tampa Catholic.
"A lot of players are physically gifted and have that athletic ability but don't study the game," Rubin said. "If I can help them coming up, that's what I want to do. If I didn't share all the things that I've learned, then that would be selfish."
Coaching and teaching go hand in hand, so it's only natural Rubin is pursuing a career in the classroom. He's on track to graduate from USF at the end of the summer with a degree in African studies. Rubin hopes to teach at the high school level and eventually move up the coaching ranks.
"I'm 31, so I don't have the same speed I used to, but the game has also slowed down for me so much in terms of how much quicker I can process the game," he said. "I truly enjoy helping these kids out, and one day I want to coach in college."
As for now, Rubin couldn't be happier getting a shot with the Storm in front of his hometown fans.
"Not too many NFL teams are going to invest in a 31-year-old, so that door has likely closed," Rubin said. "But this is a great opportunity, and I've been getting my mental reps in. I'm ready."