The Storm will board a plane to Tampa today after Saturday's 70-33 loss at Tulsa, Okla., that eliminated it from playoff contention, but to make matters worse, two of its best players — linebacker Cliff Dukes and receiver Huey Whittaker — will be on a different flight.
Dukes and Whittaker will land today in Virginia, where they will join their new team, the Virginia Beach Destroyers of the United Football League. Training camp for the Destroyers, formerly the Florida Tuskers, opens today. UFL salaries are significantly higher than the $1,000 a game the top three players on each AFL team make.
"(The Destroyers) contacted me a few weeks ago because they liked my aggressiveness and the way I played," Dukes, 30, said last week. "This is an opportunity I had to take."
AFL contracts are structured in a way that allows players to leave.
Dukes finished his AFL year three sacks shy of the Arena Football League's season record of 15 1/2. Whittaker, who starred at Springstead High and USF, had two touchdowns Saturday. The 37-point loss by the Storm (6-10) ties for the third-worst margin of defeat in its history.
"The hardest thing is leaving my boys, my brothers (on the Storm)," Dukes said. "We went through a lot together."