RB Aaron Stecker scored on a one-yard plunge for the Scottish Claymores
Six Tampa Bay Buccaneers – QB Scott Milanovich, RB Aaron Stecker, LBs Shawn Stuckey and Bobbie Howard, CB Deshone Mallard and TE Jason Freeman – are currently across the Atlantic competing in the NFL Europe League's spring season. While they're gaining valuable experience, they are missing out on firing up the grill for this weekend's Memorial Day holiday.
Several, however, ignited a fire of their own over the weekend as the NFLEL put on its seventh week of action. As usual, Milanovich and Stecker delivered the most eye-catching results of the Bucs' allocated players and were at the center of the league's developments.
Milanovich has taken over the starting QB job for the Berlin Thunder, a role originally handed to the Cincinnati Bengals' Eric Kresser, and has helped turn the Thunder's season into a thrilling roller coaster ride. For the fourth straight week, Milanovich and the 4-3 Thunder were involved in a late-game thriller, this time dropping a 28-27 decision to the Danny Wuerffel-led Rhein Fire on Saturday.
Milanovich did his part in the all-Germany contest, staking the Thunder to leads of 20-0 and 27-14 in the Fire's home stadium in Dusseldorf by throwing a trio of touchdown passes. Milanovich got Berlin on the board on the Thunder's first possession, avoiding a heavy rush to hit Damon Dunn for a 71-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline. On the Thunder's next drive, Milanovich got another Buccaneer into the action, hitting TE Jason Freeman on a 21-yard TD pass. The Thunder's next two drives ended in field goals, but Milanovich fired his third long scoring pass of the game in the third quarter when he hit WR Anthony Ladd on a 47-yarder.
Unfortunately for Milanovich and the Thunder, Wuerrfel threw four TD passes, including the game-winner inside of two minutes remaining. It was a revenge outing for the Fire, who fell to Milanovich's crew a week earlier in an overtime battle. The week prior to that, Milanovich and Berlin lost in overtime, one week after the Buc QB entered a game against the Scottish Claymores and directed a 23-20 Berlin victory.
Those Claymores, however, are in second place in the NFLEL at 4-3 after blanking the Barcelona Dragons 28-0 on Saturday. That spot in the standings is due in no small part to the work of Stecker, who came into the weekend leading the circuit in rushing yards (480) and total yards from scrimmage (678) and was second in touchdowns scored (five).
On Sunday, Stecker kept his star on the rise by setting up two of the Claymores' four scores with 13-yard gains. In the second quarter, Stecker caught a 13-yard pass down to the Barcelona 12-yard line, two plays before QB Marcus Crandell found WR Sulecio Stanford for the touchdown. In the third period, Stecker picked up 13 yards on a run down to the Barcelona five, then was allowed to carry it in himself from one yard out. There are three weeks remaining in the NFLEL's regular season, followed by the World Bowl to decide the league championship on June 25. That will give the Buccaneers' six NFLEL players plenty of time to rejoin their NFL squad for training camp, which opens on July 23 at the University of Tampa. They also should be home in time for the next national holiday in the states, the Fourth of July, another excellent weekend to ignite a little blaze.