Down Final Stretch, Sharks Shining When Putting Faith in Fafaul
Photo Credit: Jacksonville Sharks Media
Quarterback Mike Fafaul never hit the lottery when it came to team quarterback situations.
Coming out of UCLA, Fafaul was brought into mini-camp with the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins, but could not crack the roster on either team.
Fafaul was signed by the Albany Empire where he was immediately buried on the depth chart by arena football great Tommy Grady.
“When I first got up there, I was one of those guys ready to get to work and get tape to get back and, at first, I was little discouraged because I thought I was going to be playing,” Fafaul said. “But it was an unbelievable opportunity just to learn from a guy like that. Tommy became one of my good friends and he really helped me learn the game and I think it really carried over to this year.”
Fafaul was supplanted again by former Maine Mammoths quarterback Jonathan Bane.
It appeared that the UCLA alum was destined to grace the bench once again until Bane went down with an injury.
Fafaul stepped onto the field and immediately took advantage of the opportunity leading the Sharks to four straight wins with 28 touchdown passes to only five interceptions on the season, even completing 64 percent of his throws.
It was a long time coming for the backup and was gratifying most of all to finally get his chance.
“It felt unbelievable [to get my shot,]” Fafaul said. “It was one of those situations where you don’t really want to see anybody get hurt, but just going out there and being able to do it with these guys is awesome. We have a special group of guys and it was a lot of fun to string together some victories.”
“He’s been fantastic,” Fafaul said about Bane. “He’s one of my good friends down here and he was one of the first guys I met. We’ve had a really good relationship and he’s been one of those guys whenever I’m out on the field and I come back [to the bench] he’s the first guy talking to me, he’s a good teammate and a good guy.”
Down by seven against the Massachusetts Pirates this past Saturday, with time ticking away, Sharks head coach Siaha Burley put his faith in Fafaul.
No. 9 went onto to the field throwing three straight completions, including a touchdown to wide receiver Jarmon Fortson with 12 seconds left. He followed that up with two more completions in overtime and one more touchdown pass to wide receiver Devin Wilson.
“It was an emotional roller coaster,” Fafaul said about the final drive and overtime. “I was pretty fired up going into the game, but the crowd was electric and I kind of fed off of that, we have one of the best crowds in arena football period and just going out onto that field and hearing those fans go nuts just gives me a lot of energy and gives the team a lot of energy and I’m just glad we responded in a positive way.”
With Fafaul getting the job done, fans have taken notice. Including one fan making a bold comparison likening the scenario to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady overtaking Drew Bledsoe in 2001.
“I did get that from one fan, I don’t know if you could compare me to Tom Brady just yet,” Fafaul laughed. “I’m just taking it one day at a time and just put us in a good spot to finish strong here.”
His head was originally on the NFL with aspirations to make it back there. But his success and time in the NAL he says has admittedly changed his mindset.
“I’ve thought about my goals a lot the past couple years and I feel like it’s changed a little for me,” Fafaul said. “It was always just to get back to the NFL and get that opportunity one more time and capture that moment but now it’s just enjoying each individual moment and not looking too far into the future. Obviously getting back to the NFL would be a dream come true but I realize that’s a super hard path for someone in my position and I’m just trying to stay present and not look too far into the future and just really enjoy this moment with this team right now.”