01/07/2011 6:31 PM
When watching the Arena Football League, a fan can recognize the distinct game by the 50-yard field, skinny field goals and the wide receiver in motion behind the line of scrimmage.
With a 50-yard field, the defense seems to have the advantage, so the AFL created a unique rule to keep the game fast-paced and high scoring. This unique rule is the high motion man.
“Arena Football is the high motion man,” Spokane Shock Head Coach Rob Keefe said. “If you didn’t have the motion man in Arena Football, I don’t think it would be Arena Football.”
After the huddle, the high motion man is permitted to start anywhere on the field, except for in the box. The high motion man can then start his route behind the line of scrimmage, allowing the wide receiver to be at full speed by the time they hit the line.
The key to an effective high motion man play is perfecting the timing between the quarterback and the wide receiver.
“I always control the motion and the snap count. It’s pretty much my responsibility,” Jacksonville quarterback Aaron Garcia said. “I’m telling the guys that they need to hit the line of scrimmage at full speed, and it’s up to me to time that out.”
Garcia is entering his 17th year as a quarterback in the AFL. After 44,794 career yards and 955 touchdowns, Garcia understands what it takes for a successful relationship with the high motion man.
“Just practice,” Garcia said. “It’s pretty easy with veteran receivers. You will have some new receivers coming in from college or the NFL that aren’t use to the motion and that takes a while.”
Developing a relationship between a quarterback and a wide receiver is a time-consuming task that takes repetition and practice. New Orleans wide receiver Carlese Franklin talks to his quarterback at least once a week, trying to develop chemistry though their constant communication.
“It’s going to take a lot of work. I’m not use to a new quarterback’s mechanics of the game, how he throws or timing,” Franklin said. “It will be getting use to his snap count and throwing.”
Donovan Morgan, the No.2 receiver in total scoring (318 points) and No. 5 in total receiving yards (1707) in 2010, doesn’t necessarily like playing as the high motion man but knows its importance in winning the game.
“A stationary receiver and the defensive back are on the same level because they both start at the same time, as far as speed is concerned,” Morgan said. “When you have somebody in high motion, it’s different because that guy is already at full speed. A defensive back has to backpedal and try to dictate which way that guy is going to go. We [wide receivers] have the upper hand in that.”
Playing as a defensive back in any league takes specific technical skills, but an Arena Football League defensive back needs more than just speed.
“Defensive backs are going to have good feet, going to have what we call in the business good hips, going to be fast and make good plays when the ball is in the air. That’s a good defensive back in itself,” Keefe said. “In Arena Football, you have to have strong character and be strong willed.”
With scores easily exceeding 60 points every game, a defensive back needs a mentality that enables them to forget the last touchdown and still have confidence to win the game. Spokane Shock Head Coach Rob Keefe knows the difficult task defensive backs face in the AFL. Keefe played as a defensive back for both ArenaCup and ArenaBowl Championship teams.
“It’s a lot of reinforcement, patting on the back and understanding,” Keefe said. “It’s something that I am able to understand, so I don’t get on them as much.”
San Jose defensive back Mervin Brookins was shocked the first time he saw a receiver coming towards him at full speed.
“You have to be able to adapt quickly to each and every receivers speed,” Brookins said. “In the outdoor game, you can play around with your coverage, but here you have to stay true to your technique.”
A recent change in an offensive penalty demonstrates the positions importance. The Arena Football League will now enforce a 10-yard penalty, instead of a 5-yard penalty, when the high motion man steps offside.
“If you increase the penalty on this rule, I think it keeps the offense honest,” Keefe said. “I think it’s good. It’s something that will be followed because 10-yards is a lot different than five.”
Whether you are the high motion man or defending one, the pace of the game is determined by this symbolic position.
“When you’re a fan, the first thing you look at is probably the high motion man, because you know that once he hits the line of scrimmage, that is when the ball is snapped,” Keefe said. “All eyes are on him. It keeps the game very fun and fast paced.”