- May 4, 2017
Jason Boltus is on the road to Tampa most mornings during the season no later than 5:15 a.m.
Quarterbacks for the Tampa Bay Storm meet daily at 8 a.m., with the entire offense meeting as a unit afterward.
Then, there’s practice — the Arena Football League team hits the field from 10:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. each day. Once practice ends, players will seek treatment from the team’s medical staff or hit the film room.
Except, from April 25 to May 20, Boltus instead rushed to his car, hoping to be on the road back to Orange County by 1 p.m.
As the offensive coordinator for the Ocoee High football team, Boltus would have just over two hours to get to Ocoee in time to lead the Knights’ quarterbacks and offense during spring practice each day at 3:15 p.m. — and traffic on Interstate 4 can be as unpredictable as it can be frustrating.
It would be nearly 6 p.m. by the time Ocoee was off its practice field, adjacent to its stadium on campus, though practice could be followed by a staff meeting. This went on from the first day of spring practice April 25 through the Knights’ 6-0 spring game victory May 20 at University High.
All told, it was a busy spring full of long days for Boltus, who lives in Apopka with his wife and two dogs — but one he wouldn’t change.
“It’s kind of rewarding in both ways — I still get to play (professionally) and then get to go back and coach the guys,” Boltus said.
The chaotic schedule is nothing new for Boltus, who has been quarterbacking in the AFL since 2012, coaching under Knights head coach Ben Bullock since 2014, when the two were at Mount Dora High.
“It’s a little more time-consuming — I have to find hours to stay up a little later and get up a little earlier,” Boltus said, describing the balancing act.
Bullock and Boltus’ move to Ocoee proved to be a big win for the Knights, who tripled their win total in the new staff’s first year on campus — and especially for someone such as Steven Hogan, a recently graduated senior at Ocoee who was the starting quarterback in 2015.
“He brings drills that he does every day in his professional career, and he comes back and does the drills with me,” Hogan said.
The bond between Boltus and Hogan is more influential now that Hogan has signed to play at St. Scholastica, a Division III program in Minnesota.
“It’s kind of rewarding in both ways — I still get to play (professionally) and then get to go back and coach the guys."
— Jason Boltus
Boltus, who found success as a professional quarterback after coming from a small school, counsels players that sometimes a smaller school can be an ideal situation.
“I’m kind of the living testament to that,” Boltus said.
Boltus is in his second season with the Storm, his fourth AFL team, after a record-setting season in 2014. The New York native become the team’s single-season leader in pass attempts (714), also tying for first in completions (408) and second in passing yards (5,025) and passing touchdowns (98).
Because of his teaching responsibilities at Ocoee, Boltus did not join the team until the third game of the season, and the team’s offense seemed to suffer without him. Tampa Bay is currently 1-8.
Since his return, though, Boltus has settled into the starting role and led the Storm to the team’s first win of the season May 29, putting up a game-high 358 passing yards and six touchdowns in a win against Arizona.
With Boltus, the offense has begun a return to form, and the veteran quarterback believes the team can be a force by the time the playoffs start in August.
“It’s just a matter of getting hot at the right time,” Boltus said.
And, as though his stats hadn’t built enough of a fan following for Boltus, he now has an additional fanbase here. Several Knights made the trip to see Tampa play the Predators May 13 and Hogan said he has been to several games in Tampa.
The recently graduated Knight said his favorite part is when Boltus and the Storm offense start to get rolling and fans seated near him begin to sing the praises of the team’s quarterback.
Said Hogan, “I’m always like, ‘That’s my coach.’”
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected]