TAMPA — Things happen fast in Arena Football. Storm defensive back Erick McIntosh recently found out just how fast.
On May 26, McIntosh had no team. Three weeks later, he was named the league's defensive player of the week for a breakout game on June 11.
"All this really hasn't hit me yet or sunk in," McIntosh said. "It's been a very humbling experience to come from where I was to here this fast."
McIntosh calls his journey from out of work to award winner "a trial of faith."
After a heralded career at Lehigh High in Lehigh Acres near Fort Myers, McIntosh found the going at Florida Atlantic (2006-09) more difficult. He struggled with grades, broke his ankle and saw limited playing time.
"A lot of people saw that I didn't play much in college, and they told me I should just forget football and go get a job," he said. "They told me I was wasting my time."
But McIntosh kept pressing. Buoyed by a deep faith in God — McIntosh's father was a preacher — he kept training after his senior season. None too surprising, few teams were interested in a part-time college player with no interceptions.
"I just kept working out," he said. "There were no guarantees."
After a tryout in the Canadian Football League did not pan out, McIntosh got his break.
He worked out for the Florida Tuskers of the United Football League, who are coached by former Storm QB Jay Gruden. McIntosh said he ran 40-yard dashes in 4.35 and 4.37 seconds. Gruden liked what he saw and told Storm coach Tim Marcum.
"Jay has such an expansive set of notes on players and has so many contacts with guys on the streets," Marcum said. "He said he looked good, so we got him in here with some pads on."
With the Storm thin at secondary after Deonte Bolden's season-ending ACL surgery, Marcum took Gruden's advice.
"It was just perfect timing," McIntosh said. "I'll always have (Gruden's) back because he put my name out there."
In his debut June 5 against Oklahoma City, he made four tackles. A week later against Alabama, he had a team-high 11 tackles and intercepted a pass at the Storm 4 on the game's first series. Tampa Bay won both games, part of a four-game win streak that has it at 6-3 entering tonight's game at Utah (1-8).
McIntosh credits fellow defensive backs Michael Hawthorne, Daryon Brutley and Brandon Hefflin with helping him adjust to the indoor game. And Marcum said the Storm's scheme is "simple enough," which helped McIntosh jump in immediately.
"We run mostly dude coverage," Marcum said. "We say, 'You cover that dude, and you cover that dude.' "
McIntosh, 23, said he has no idea about future plans. But with his career suddenly revived, he isn't looking too far ahead.
"I absolutely love (the Arena League)," he said. "There is no other place I'd rather be in the world right now."