TAMPA — Michael Lindsey walked into his father's hospital room and took a seat. He looked over at his dad, who was rapidly losing weight while battling cancer, and talked about the usual — football.
"Football is almost all we would talk about," Lindsey said. "When I would visit, I would just tell him to stay strong, and he would tell me just to keep doing what I was doing."
And that was trying to make the Tampa Bay Storm's roster. But with his father, Michael Jackson, waging an insurmountable battle at St. Petersburg General Hospital, Lindsey was hoping his dad would hold on to watch the Storm's home preseason game March 3 against Orlando.
"He never missed one of my high school games," said Lindsey, who starred at Boca Ciega. "He was getting so weak, and I could tell through his tears he was hurting real bad."
Lindsey got a call at practice about a week before the Orlando scrimmage and was told to get to the hospital quickly. A few days later, his father was dead at age 50, less than six months after his cancer diagnosis.
"I was devastated," Lindsey said. "He went downhill so fast."
To compound things, Lindsey was also dealing with heartbreaking news regarding another family member. His cousin Nicholas Lindsey was charged in the fatal shooting of St. Petersburg police Officer David Crawford.
"One really crazy month," Lindsey said. "I was just in shock."
For Michael Lindsey, who was far from assured a roster spot after earning a look through an open tryout, emotions came en masse.
"I would think back to when (my father) would call me at college and he would be crying because he was watching tape of me in high school," he said. "He was crying tears of joy because he was just so proud of me."
Still dealing with grief, Lindsey suited up against Orlando.
"And all the kid did was score three touchdowns," Storm coach Dave Ewart said. "With all that he was going through to do that, I knew we had a special, special player and young man."
Lindsey made the team, worked his way into the starting lineup and has been a shining star in an otherwise dismal start to the season for the Storm (1-2). He scored three touchdowns in the season-opening win at New Orleans, leads Tampa Bay with six scores and has a touchdown in all three games this season. Lindsey will look to extend that streak to four tonight when the Storm faces division rival Jacksonville (2-1) at the St. Pete Times Forum.
"I just want to try to keep making plays," he said.
Lindsey has turned into the Storm's Swiss Army knife. He has caught a touchdown, rushed for two and returned a league-leading three kickoffs for scores. He also leads the league in kickoff-return average at 30.9.
"I love returning kicks," Lindsey said. "I pretty much just look for that one crease and hit it as hard as I can."
Considering the tumultuous ride since turning heads at the tryout, Lindsey's rise has been nothing short of remarkable.
"Michael worked very hard and played his way onto this team," Ewart said. "He wants to be here and being a part of the Storm means a lot to him. He's got a bright future as a pro."