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Michna Proof You Can't Rush Success
Russ Michna understands patience better than most people do.
As the backup quarterback for the Chicago Rush, Michna has spent countless hours wearing a headset and clutching a clipboard on the sidelines while biding his time behind Sherdrick Bonner, one of the greatest players in Arena Football League history.
Though he rarely saw the field before the 2008 season, Michna prepared himself like a starter in case he ever got the opportunity to replace Bonner, who is one of only three AFL players to throw at least 800 touchdown passes.
“I have been very lucky in the Arena League as far as the chances I have had to learn from guys who really know what they are doing,” said Michna, who ran his record to 6-0 as the starter after Monday’s 72-28 win over the Los Angeles Avengers.
“One of the things I have really learned is that getting an opportunity right away isn’t always the best thing. Sometimes having a chance to learn and really understand what you are trying to do and what you are trying to accomplish on every play can lead to much greater success.
“As a quarterback you prepare like you will be the guy every week and if that happens, you have to be ready for that opportunity.”
That opportunity arrived for Michna this season, when Bonner battled a knee injury and Michna was called in to guide the team. Bonner has since returned, but Michna continues to start for Chicago, as his work behind center helped the team improve to 9-2 overall and clinch the Central Division title with Monday’s win.
Michna’s road to AFL success began at Conant High School, where he was a three-sport star in baseball, basketball and football and an all-state football selection as a senior. He returned to Conant this past year in the offseason as an assistant to coach Bill Modelski.
“I really enjoyed helping out the team and I had a great time,” Michna said. “The Rush houses us pretty close to the high school so it was a great situation for me and they were a great group of kids. I still got chills every time I heard the band play on Friday nights.”
Michna continued his gridiron career at Western Illinois, where he was named the Gateway Conference Player of the Year in 2002 and 2003, and his 6,434 career passing yards rank second in school history.
Since his days as a Cougar and Leatherneck, the Elk Grove native has bounced around the professional football ranks. He joined the St. Louis Rams in 2004 for the team’s training camp and was signed to the practice squad but released without ever making the active roster.
“The Rams experience was a great one and I can’t say enough about it,” Michna said. “I learned so much from Mike Martz (former St. Louis head coach and current offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers), it was unbelievable. His insight and his articulateness are things that have really helped me and carried over for me in my professional career.”
After his short stint with the Rams, he spent two seasons as a backup for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League before signing with the Rush in 2007. The lefty gunslinger had appeared in just three regular-season games before this year, but has thrown for 1,469 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2008.
Game of speed
“The indoor game happens fast and you have to get the ball out of your hands fast,” Michna said. “The speed of the game forces you to make decisions and react a lot quicker. You only have so long to get the ball out of your hands so you really have to get throwing.”
On May 5, Michna led the Rush to a 51-46 win at the Tampa Bay Storm on ESPN2’s national broadcast of the Arena League, and former NFL quarterback Shaun King described Michna during the telecast as a future superstar.
Several former AFL stars have parlayed their indoor success into NFL gigs, and Michna believes that anyone who has ever played competitive football dreams of playing in the NFL. But the 27-year-old refuses to look too far ahead despite the success he has had and he continues to preach patience.
“I enjoy playing football and I enjoy being out there every day,” Michna said. “I am excited to finally have the opportunity but basically it’s just a week-to-week thing and you can’t get too excited. Maybe at the end of the season I will look back and be excited and look forward to the future, but right now last week doesn’t matter.
“As cliche as it sounds, you try not to get too excited and you just go out and play and then come back and prepare for the next week.”
Spoken like a man who has waited his turn on the sidelines and now sees a field of wide-open opportunities in front of him to throw the football.
Michna proof you can’t rush success
By John Yee, Schaumberg Review
Photo Credit: Dan Luedert, Schaumberg Review