The Silver Anniversary Committee has been releasing a list of the 25 greatest players in AFL (Arena Football League) history. Second year offensive coordinator Jay Gruden came in at number four overall. Gruden played in the AFL from 1991 to 2003. He also coached in the league from 1997 until 2010.
For those of you who do not know much about Gruden's playing career, read on. Gruden was a four-year letterman at the University of Louisville. As a senior in 1988, Gruden quarterbacked his team to their first winning season in ten years. Gruden took part in two all star games- the East-West Shrine Game and the Blue-Gray Football Classic. Despite participating in these two all star games, Gruden went undrafted. Gruden decided to go back to Louisville and be a graduate assistant for two seasons. Gruden received an invite to try out for the Tampa Bay Storm in 1991. He impressed enough to make the team. Gruden eventually started in his rookie season and led the Storm to the ArenaBowl. Gruden threw a game winning touchdown pass and gave the Storm their first ArenaBowl title.
The following season, Gruden was named the league MVP. Gruden threw for 50 touchdown passes but the Storm lost in the conference championship to their rival, the Orlando Predators. The loss motivated Gruden and the Storm to win three of the next four championships. In 1996, Gruden threw for 3,623 yards and 70 touchdown passes. He became the first quarterback in AFL history to eclipse the 15,000 yard mark for his career. In 1997, Gruden decided to trade in his helmet for a headset. He became offensive coordinator for the expansion Nashville Kats. The Kats fell to his former team in the first round of the playoffs. Following his success as a first year offensive coordinator, Gruden accepted the head coaching position with the Orlando Predators. In his first season, Gruden led the Predators to a victory over the Storm in the ArenaBowl. In 2000, he won another ArenaBowl. In 2002, Gruden was getting the itch to play again. He threw 68 touchdowns for the Predators. Following the season, Gruden joined his brother Jon in Tampa Bay to be an offensive assistant.
In 2003, Gruden decided to play one more season in the AFL after the death of Predator head coach Fran Papasedero. Gruden finished his career with four championships and was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame. Gruden won two more ArenaBowl championships as a head coach, before coming to Cincinnati last season.
The League’s Silver Anniversary Committee will continue to countdown its list of the 25 Greatest Players in AFL History with the announcements of the 3rd Greatest Player in AFL history on Friday, August 3 during NFL Network’s 8 p.m. ET broadcast of the American Conference Championship game between the Jacksonville Sharks and Philadelphia Soul on "NET10 Arena Football Friday". The announcement of the Silver Anniversary’s Top 2 will be made at AVITAE ArenaBowl XXV in New Orleans on August 10.