Canadian QB makes historic start on Saturday night
All eyes will be on Amarillo Saturday night as af2 fans will witness the first international player to start at quarterback for an af2 team in the six-year history of the league. Canadian gunslinger Steve Panella will get the nod for the Amarillo Dusters as they take on the Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings in an important Midwest Division Contest.
"Steve has been preparing for this for two seasons, and we believe he's ready," said Dusters Head Coach Steve Perdue. "When Warren first told us that he found a gem of a quarterback up in Canada last year, we thought he was crazy. We've watched him develop over the past two seasons. His ability to make quick decisions and seeing his arm strength and mechanics improve has us fired up."
"I know that I am blessed to have this opportunity," said Panella. "I've learned so much from Coach Foggie and Coach Perdue. I just want to go out and keep our offense rolling, and not miss a beat."
Panella saw limited action in 2004 as the Dusters backup quarterback in the now-defunct Intense Football League, passing for 165 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. Panella stayed with the team as they moved up to af2, and has completed 4-of-7 passes for 42 yards. He has also carried the ball three times for nine yards and one touchdown this season.
Panella guided the Saint Mary's Huskies to back-to-back National Championship Appearances in the Canadian Vanier Cup in 2002 and 2003. Panella was named MVP of the 2002 Vanier Cup as well. Over his career at SMU, he completed 54% of his passes for 5,101 yards and 30 touchdowns.
Pannella is one of 22 international players currently assigned to af2 rosters. For the past two seasons, teams have been allowed to expand their practice squads by two men to accommodate international prospects. A rule change for the 2005 season allows af2 teams to add one extra player to the active roster each game, if that player is of international origin.
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