Thursday, December 24, 2015

Former UConn QB on 2015 Huskies: They Look The Part

Former UConn QB Shane Stafford, seen scoring a touchdown in a 2008
Arena Football League playoff game, is returning to league as assistant coach
Among the visitors at yesterday's UConn football practice was something who knows a thing or two about playing in postseason games as a Husky.

Shane Stafford was the starting quarterback on the 1998 UConn team which defeated Hampton in the first round of the NCAA I-AA playoffs before falling to Georgia Southern in the quarterfinals. When he graduated Stafford ranked second in UConn's career lists for total offense, passes attempted and completed and passing yards (all later surpassed by Dan Orlovsky). He still owns the UConn career record with a passing rating of 143.4 and among the UConn quarterbacks with at least 20 touchdown passes, he is the only one with twice as many TD passes as interceptions.

I was curious what his impressions were of this UConn team as he watched them go through drills at Calvary Christian High School.

"My first impression is they look the part, big, they look strong and athletic," Stafford said. "The tempo of practice is awesome. Coach Diaco is a guy I don't know personally at all  but you read about him, you see his pedigree, his background in coaching and it is pretty exciting stuff. It gives me a lot joy and pride to be down here in Florida to say I am an alumni of UConn football.

Stafford's class posted a 30-16 record which was the most wins over a four-year span in UConn history. The 2010 class, which went 33-19, is the only group of Huskies to finish with more wins over a four-year span. By comparison, last year's senior class won a total of 15 games. 

"It is frustrating and I guess you feel for them," Stafford said. "You want to see them be successful but at the same time, success doesn't happen by accident, you have to earn it and work for it. I think this team by what I read about them and what I see from the outside in, Coach Diaco is leading them and it starts at the top. The athletic director and president of the university too, the head coach, coaching staff, training stuff and everybody. To see them turn it around does show you that they are moving in the right direction. To be in a bowl game again, just to have this experience and winning, there is nothing like it. It is fun and it is great to see these kids continue to hopefully leave their legacy on their school."

Naturally I was curious what Stafford's thoughts were on current UConn starting quarterback Bryant Shirreffs.

"What I have seen of him, he is a strong-armed kid, athletic but as any quarterback at the collegiate level it is about consistency," Stafford said. "It is all about your preparation and consistency of your preparation. I think he has a lot of ability."

For those wondering what Stafford is up to,  after playing for six teams during a 10-year professional career spent mostly in the Arena Football League, Stafford is transitioning to the coaching world. He was recently named the quarterbacks coach of the Tampa Bay Storm, a team he played for from 2001-02 and 2004-06 throwing for 15,672 yards with 289 touchdown passes and 54 interceptions.

"I'm pretty excited about that," Stafford said. "It 's been a fun adventure. You dream of it but you don't know where life is going to take you. I didn't even know I was going to play Arena Football, I didn't know what it was but the arena game is a great game, it is so much fun. It really is an injustice watching it on TV because watching it in person, I tell people it is kind of like hockey. If you see a game in person, it is so much faster, so much fun and exciting because you are right on top of it. The speed of the game but I am excited about being a coach here."


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