TAMPA — Tampa Bay fans will recognize a familiar name in the lineup tonight when longtime Storm FB/LB Terrence Royal takes the field for the first time this season.
"He's one of those old AFL guys," coach Dave Ewart said. "He's not in tip-top shape, of course, but he's tough and he's going to fight out there."
Royal, who signed this week, enters his fifth season with the team and has played every home game in his football career in Hillsborough County. The 6-foot-3, 290-pounder starred at Wharton High and USF before joining the Storm in 2008.
"He's a guy who's always been around the Storm and the area," Ewart said. "He's a guy who loves the game of football."
Royal ranks fourth all-time at USF with 47½ tackles for loss, and his 10 sacks in 2005 are tied for the second-best single-season total behind George Selvie's 14½. Royal is third on USF's career sack list with 19½ and second all-time with five fumble recoveries.
Playoffs? Tampa Bay (7-9) again will have a chance to secure a playoff spot with a win against Pittsburgh (3-13) tonight. The Storm also can capture a wild-card berth in the American Conference if Orlando (6-10) or New Orleans (5-11) loses. Tampa Bay has not made the postseason since 2010 when it lost to Spokane in ArenaBowl XXIII.
"The guys have been positive, and we've had some spirited practices this week," Ewart said.
"The thing about it is we control our own destiny, so we just have to go out and win it (tonight)."
Losing streak: With their losing streak at five games, this is the worst such stretch for the Storm since before the AFL suspended play for one season. In 2008, Tampa Bay lost five in a row and finished that year 8-8.
Hills of Gold: WR Joe Hills continues to rewrite the team's record books. Hills set two franchise single-season marks last week: most touchdown catches (39) and points scored (242). Hills can also make history tonight; he enters the game 81 yards shy of the single-season receiving yards mark (1,749). The 6-foot-5, 215-pounder, who missed two games while away at the NFL's Carolina Panthers rookie minicamp, has also caught a TD pass in 18 straight games dating to last season.
Thanks, Fans: Tonight's home finale will also be fan appreciation night. The first 1,000 fans will receive a Storm drawstring backpack. The team also will offer $2 hot dogs and $5 12-ounce beers at selected concession stands. There will also be discounted merchandise at the Tampa Bay Sports Store and fans can get autographs on the field after the game. Tampa Bay is second in the AFL in attendance, averaging 11,237 per game.
The regular-season finale is July 27 at Jacksonville.