The Arena Football League is a lot like NASCAR with pads. Guys are flying around at neck-breaking speeds. Decisions are made in the blink of an eye. And yep, there’s a “wreck” waiting in every corner.
But this is the game San Jose Sabercats rookie quarterback Nathan Stanley loves to play.
“The biggest difference between the indoor game compared to the outdoors is the size difference of the field,” the 25-year-old Cherokee from Tahlequah, Oklahoma told ICTMN. “It’s a super-fast game. The angles are a lot different, but a 10-yard out is still a 10-yard out..”
A big part of the remainder of the Sabercats season is going to be riding on Stanley’s arm. He moved into the spotlight when San Jose starter Russ Michna went down with a broken collarbone on May 31.
The 6-foot-5, 215-pound trigger man has the Sabercats on a three-game winning streak, including a huge win on Friday night when the No. 4 Sabercats knocked top-ranked Arizona from the ranks of the unbeaten with a decisive 62-33 victory at home. Stanley completed 14-of-22 passes for 167 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
“Russ is a veteran who’s been in the league for six years, so it was good for me to sit back and learn from somebody. I didn’t expect to get so much playing time this early, but it’s been a blessing,” said Stanley, who played at Southeastern Louisiana University. “We still have five games left in the regular season and the goal is to get a lot better and get ready for the playoffs.”
Stanley was the offensive player of the game in his last outing, leading the Sabercats to a 47-37 victory over Spokane to clinch a playoff spot. In his second consecutive start in place of Michna, he completed 18-of-31 passes for 240 yards, with four touchdowns, and one interception. Stanley had a career night against the Los Angeles Kiss when he threw for seven touchdowns on 25-of-37 passing for 280 yards and one interception.
“The AFL is built to score and I think we have some really good playmakers,” said Stanley, who is ranked eighth in Southeastern Louisiana school history in passing yards. “We have guys that once they get the ball in their hands, they can do something with it.”
The club promoted Friday night’s game as Faith and Family Night, and Stanley has both. Even though he was an Oklahoma State University fan, he grew up watching Cherokee quarterback Sam Bradford at Oklahoma.
“I was a big fan of Bradford when I was in high school. I took some visits to Oklahoma and got to meet Sam a few times,” Stanley said. “I just fell in love with football early and that’s what I knew I wanted to be.”
His parents Eric and Gina were always there, as was his grandmother Ann Lamb. He didn’t grow up with a lot of Cherokee traditions, but there was a tremendous amount of love in the house.
“I’ve always had a great amount of support from my family,” he said “My grandmother is a full-blood and my mom’s half, so I’m a quarter, but I never really got into the ceremonies or dancing. But I’m really interested and I’ve learned a lot from my grandmother. She’s really good at telling me some of the stories.”
Stanley is eying another shot in the NFL. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Baltimore Ravens in 2012, and has drawn interest from New England and Houston. He’s hoping there’s one more Kurt Warner story out there. “The AFL is the very best of indoor football,” he said. “It’s professional football and there’s still a chance an NFL team might give me a shot. It’s a chance to play ball and get some film on me and get better; so, I might get a shot.”
Right now, it’s just one playoff game at a time.