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Tom Kaleita a veteran presence for Tampa Bay Storm

In addition to playing offensive line for the Storm, Tom Kaleita, left, also gets his hands on the ball at times. The 325-pounder has six rushes for two scores in 2012 and has six career TD catches.

Times (2010)

In addition to playing offensive line for the Storm, Tom Kaleita, left, also gets his hands on the ball at times. The 325-pounder has six rushes for two scores in 2012 and has six career TD catches.

TAMPA — Rarely are 28-year-olds considered elder statesmen. But in the case of Tom Kaleita, most of his Storm teammates think he should be getting a letter from AARP any day now.

"I get 'old man' once in awhile," Kaleita said.

That's quite a stretch, but in his fifth year with Tampa Bay, Kaleita is the longest-tenured player on the roster … by a long shot. The Storm has eight players with two years of experience, five players with one and 10 rookies.

"It's a different role for sure," Kaleita said. "Last year I think our average age was 30, but this is a different team. And now these guys look to me a lot more than before."

Kaleita, an offensive lineman, attributed the team's 0-5 road struggles this season to being so young. Tampa Bay is 5-5 overall and looks to keep a perfect home record tonight when it hosts Milwaukee (3-6).

"I think (our road trouble) has a lot to do with having so many young guys who aren't used to the (indoor) game," he said. "You can get down by 21 or 28 points in this game and it's still very possible to come back. We've had that happen (on the road) and you can see in some of these guy's eyes that they think it's over."

Kaleita has been a rock on the line in his four-plus season with the Storm. He has had a streak of 13 straight games between 2007-08 (568 snaps) without surrendering a sack and another 14-game streak (534 snaps) that started last year and extended into this season.

"Tom's been playing at a high level since he's come here," coach Dave Ewart said. "He's changed with this organization and always been a guy who does what he says."

Kaleita played at Eastern Michigan and signed with Detroit as an undrafted free agent before landing in Tampa. It took the 6-foot-6, 325-pounder time to get used to the indoor game.

"I was getting eaten up when I first got here," Kaleita said. "I had to learn to get my hands on (defensive linemen) quicker. You can't give them a step or two because they are so close to the quarterback."

Kaleita, a tight end in high school, has proven to be more than just a pass protector. He has 18 receptions for six touchdowns in his career and worked his way into the Storm's short-yardage package this season, carrying the ball six times for a pair of scores.

"Carrying the ball is something out of my comfort zone now," he said. "And I'm sure you've noticed that when linemen fall, we don't do it gracefully. It can be pretty ugly."

As is the case with AFL players, Kaleita juggles his time with the Storm. He has a full-time job as general manager of an industrial supply store, a wife of four years and a 15-month-old.

"It's very exhausting, and there are some major challenges with time," he said. "I have talked with my wife about (retiring), but I want to win a championship, and my body feels pretty good. When I'm done, it's going to be because I don't have the time, not because of how my body feels."

Moves: Offensive linemen Jamar Bass and Terence Crosby were re-signed this week. Both were with the club earlier this season. Bass played at USF. Defensive back Riley Swanson was activated from injured reserve, and linemen Eugene Kinlaw and Wondell Rutledge were placed on IR. Defensive back Erick Harris was signed, and defensive back Rod Mosley was released.

.Fast facts

Tonight

Storm vs. Milwaukee, 7:30, Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa. Radio: 1250-AM

Tom Kaleita a veteran presence for Tampa Bay Storm 05/25/12 [Last modified: Friday, May 25, 2012 10:14pm]
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