TAMPA — Hard to blame the kid for being a little wide-eyed.
In his first home start for the Storm two weeks ago, quarterback Stephen Wasil trotted out onto the new turf at the Tampa Bay Times Forum and tried to soak it all in. Problem was, he had no frame of reference.
"I'd never played in front of a crowd like that," Wasil said of the 16,054 at the Storm's 50-47 win against Georgia. "It was just awesome."
And a little off-putting. Wasil, who played at tiny Division III Albion College (current enrollment is about 1,500) in Michigan, admitted that nerves got the best of him in the first half. Wasil was 13-of-28 for 155 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in the first two quarters.
"It was pretty exciting, and I was just a little too jacked up," he said. "I needed to slow things down."
Wasil did just that in the second half, going 12-for-17 for 143 yards, two TDs and no interceptions. And playing a big part of Wasil's second-half transformation was the guy he beat out in training camp for the starting job — former USF star Matt Grothe.
"Matt was really the one who pulled me aside and told me I had more time than I thought I did," Wasil said. "I was just going at it too quick."
It has been quite a first few weeks in Tampa for Wasil, the incumbent starter in Kansas City heading into the season. After coming over in a trade from Kansas City for 2011 defensive lineman of the year Cliff Dukes less than two weeks before the start of training camp, Wasil was in unfamiliar territory and locked in an open quarterback competition.
"I knew of guys but didn't know anyone here," said Wasil, who turns 29 next month. "And I had no idea USF was that close to Tampa."
Then came the brief players strike on the AFL's opening night, a day before the Storm's first game in Chicago. Wasil and the team were in limbo waiting to hear from the players union, which called off the strike the morning of game day.
"(The strike) was a stressful situation, but we went to Chicago fully intending to play football," Wasil said. "Thankfully we didn't have to make a decision whether or not to play (or join the union in a strike) because I think we all wanted to just go out and play."
If all that wasn't enough, Wasil still didn't know who would start.
"Coach (Dave Ewart) didn't tell me until Saturday just before the game," Wasil said.
Ewart said it was a tough decision but Wasil's time in AF2 and last season with the Command gave him the edge.
"I think the experience he brings was the biggest thing," he said. "But we evaluate day to day. Everyone is accountable."
Wasil played well in the season-opening loss at Chicago and looked much more comfortable in the second half against Georgia. He said tonight's crowd against division rival and defending AFL champion Jacksonville will be much easier to deal with.
"I know what to expect now and how to deal with everything," he said. "I'm more than ready for (tonight)."
Notes: Tonight is Faith and Family night and will feature a postgame speech on the field from Tony Dungy and Storm president and former Bucs great Derrick Brooks. … Jacksonville is 4-0 all time against Tampa Bay.