TAMPA — Brian Zbydniewski had not completely closed the door on his football career, but there was very little daylight peeking through. After spending five years bouncing around arenafootball2 and one as a backup in the Arena League, he thought it might be time to get a job outside of the sport.
"I was living out in L.A. with my girlfriend (in April)," he said. "I wanted something with a little more stability."
Zbydniewski graduated from Belhaven, an NAIA school in Jackson, Miss., with a degree in business administration. But he wasn't having much luck in the sagging job market. Then he got a call with a familiar voice on the other end.
"Huey (Whittaker) said he thought they could use me," Zbydniewski said of the current Storm receiver and former teammate with Spokane. "He kept calling. And at that time, all I was doing was working in a buddy's restaurant. I figured why not?"
And the Storm could not be happier.
"I took a little coaxing," coach Dave Ewart said. "But we are glad he decided to come in."
Zbydniewski and the Storm (5-7) will try to win consecutive home games for the first time this season when it faces Orlando (8-4) tonight.
Before Zbydniewski (pronounced Zi-bi-NEW-ski) settled in as the starter, the Storm's quarterback situation was a mess. Jevan Snead, the preseason favorite to replace 2010 starter Brett Dietz, was cut during training camp. Mike Potts opened the season but was waived after Week 2. Then Grant Gregory struggled.
"It was a position we were weak at, for sure," Ewart said.
Zbydniewski, 29, came on in mop-up duty against Dallas on April 23 and showed flashes, going 5-of-6 for 107 yards and three touchdowns.
"At that point, I was just hoping they'd turn to me," said Zbydniewski, who appeared in one game for Spokane last season. "I'd traveled all the way to the other side of the country, and I knew I could lead this team."
Zbydniewski started the following week against Milwaukee but threw three interceptions in a loss. He followed with three more in a loss to Orlando.
"If you took away the turnovers, he played pretty well considering those were his first two (starts)," Ewart said. "He was making the throws in practice, and we felt we had the right guy."
Zbydniewski has rewarded his coach's confidence, leading the Storm to a 3-1 record since the loss to Orlando. Last week against division-leading Pittsburgh, Zbydniewski threw for career highs in yards (372) and touchdowns (eight) with just one interception. As a result, he was named league co-offensive player of the week.
"I'm getting more and more comfortable with the guys and the system," Zbydniewski said. "I knew my time would come."
Tonight Zbydniewski gets another taste of the "War on I-4."
"There such a big history with these teams," he said. "As an athlete, these are the type of games you want to play in. We're looking forward to it."