By Matt Popchock
For Bill Stull, home is where his helmet is. He’s already worn them for the Rebels and Panthers, and now he gets to wear another in his native Pittsburgh, that of the Power.
“There’s nothing better than playing in your hometown, let alone the greatest football city in the world,” he said at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex Friday, the same facility where he once practiced with his college brethren. “I really don’t think many people can challenge that [title], with all the great history…all the great high school and college players, and, of course, the Steelers.”
Once upon a time, Stull was one of those all-time greats. As a senior quarterback at Seton-LaSalle, he tossed 40 touchdowns and completed 62 percent of his passes. He led the Rebels to a Century Conference title, a perfect regular season, and a 42-35 win over perennial power Aliquippa at Heinz Field for the Class AA championship, Seton-LaSalle’s second in three years.
“Winning the WPIAL championship was definitely my favorite moment [in high school], aside from our offense setting a bunch of records that year,” Stull said of the 2004 Rebels, who averaged 36 points per game.
He threw for 3,310 yards that season, becoming the only quarterback in WPIAL history to top 3,000 in a single season until South Fayette’s Christian Brumbaugh beat his mark last year with 3,726. Stull’s senior season remains the fourth-best by a quarterback in PIAA history.
Oddly enough, Christian’s brother, Luke Brumbaugh, is entering his junior season at Seton-LaSalle as that team’s probable new starting QB. Barring employment opportunities in the UFL (United Football League) or NFL, Stull will return to his alma mater and work with the younger Brumbaugh as a quarterbacks coach alongside his old head coach, Greg Perry.
He also worked on Perry’s staff last year, during which Seton-LaSalle finished second to Christian Brumbaugh’s Lions in the Century Conference and made the district quarterfinals.
“I’m sure Coach Perry’s been training his tail off and making sure he’s on point,” Stull said of Luke, “so I’ll be interested to see how he’s doing.”
Anyway, the 2004 WPIAL Class AA Final wasn’t the last Stull saw of Heinz Field. After amassing a 19-4 record as a starter in two full seasons, he was recruited by incoming Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt. As a redshirt senior under Wannstedt, he earned First-Team All-Big East honors and led his team to ten wins, including a victory in the 2009 Meineke Car Care Bowl, becoming the first Panther QB since Dan Marino to win ten games in a season.
“Coach Wannstedt was pretty much the reason I came to Pitt. It’s sad that I can’t see him all the time anymore, but I appreciate the guy, and I love him as a coach and a person,” he said.
Stull would then get picked up by the UFL’s Hartford Colonials before joining the Kansas City Chiefs’ 2010 training camp as an undrafted free agent. There he was reunited with former Pitt teammate and West Allegheny quarterback Tyler Palko.
“I was the only quarterback at their rookie camp,” Stull said. “Yes, I did get cut [during the final days], but it was a great learning experience working with head coach Todd Haley and (then offensive coordinator) Charlie Weis, whose reputation speaks for itself. Just to see my name in an NFL locker was awesome.”
Stull’s subsequent debut in the Arena Football League started the same way Marino’s college career did–with an interception. But he also completed seven of 11 passes for 68 yards and three TD’s, while adding two touchdown runs in backup duty with the Spokane Shock this season.
“I came [into the AFL] not knowing a lot, except the field is shorter, and it’s indoors,” Stull said. “It’s a whole different game, and really, at times, faster and more exciting.
“Accuracy as a quarterback is something that’s going to show in the arena game, if you don’t have it. If you have it, you’re going to be successful, and your team is going to be successful. I think that’s one of my strong points.”
He did, however, discover a hidden talent while playing for Spokane: tackling.
In the team’s 51-41 loss to the Power at CONSOL Energy Center May 7, Stull was credited with a special teams tackle.
So, what’s harder as a quarterback: hitting your receivers…or making a hit?
“Making a tackle,” he said with a laugh. “I never really was a defensive player at any point in my life, but whatever the coaches needed me to do, I said I wanted to play.”
Out of courtesy, the Shock released Stull at the beginning of this month so he could be closer to his family. Fortunately, Power head coach Chris Siegfried, per AFL rules, still had room for a backup QB, and also had a claim order to spare.
“My mom’s been smiling for the past week, ever since I told her I was coming home,” Stull said. “It kind of stinks I wasn’t able to practice this week, and that I couldn’t come home in time to potentially suit up, but I’m just really excited to be back here playing football.”