By Matt Popchock
Look…down on the turf…it’s a bird…it’s a plane…no, it’s Superman.
Several weeks after landing veteran quarterback and former ArenaBowl MVP Kyle Rowley, another of the Arena Football League’s brightest stars has agreed to come to the Steel City.
Former New Orleans VooDoo wide receiver/kick returner P.J. Berry, the 2011 AFL Ironman of the Year, has been assigned to the Pittsburgh Power, the team announced Friday.
Pittsburgh Power head coach Chris Siegfried wanted to upgrade his special teams. “Special” is an astute description of what the team has done to that group.
“P.J. has the game-changing ability to lead this effort,” Siegfried affirmed. That’s not just coach-speak, either.
The 28-year-old Berry starred in both football and baseball at Virginia State of NCAA Division II (FCS) before launching an arena football career that began in the now-defunct AF2 developmental league with the South Georgia Wildcats in 2008. He earned first team all-conference honors before moving on to the Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings, which were later absorbed into the reformed AFL.
Berry amassed over 2,500 all-purpose yards and 35 total touchdowns in 2010 before the Battle Wings became the second incarnation of the New Orleans VooDoo. In 2011 he earned the nickname “Superman” by setting a league record with 3,708 all-purpose yards and leading the VooDoo with 41 total TD’s, including five on kick returns.
In addition to his aforementioned award, he also earned a spot on the AFL’s All-Ironman Team and made First Team All-Arena as a kick returner.
“I’m going to miss [New Orleans] a lot; I love my ‘Superman’ fans,” Berry said to ArenaFootball.com Friday. “But this was a decision made over time, with my family, and what’s best for me. Plus, I think it was time for a change.”
It’s an incredibly positive change for the Power. Talent was not the problem with their special teams unit in the team’s inaugural season, but rather, consistency and execution. Those problems were underscored when sure-handed Jerome Mathis, the former NFL All-Pro, ran into health issues. But now the Power boast a quintessential arena football player at that position, someone who is a threat to score literally every time he touches the ball.
Furthermore, Berry gives gravitas to a receiving corps that already features youngsters Mike Washington and Lonnell Dewalt, two proven playmakers who have agreed to return to Pittsburgh for a second AFL season.
“P.J. is a great player, and we’re excited to showcase his many talents to our fans. It was important for him to be on a team that’ll give him great exposure nationally and locally, and to play in an NFL-caliber city,” team owner Matt Shaner said.
“I think they’re a great organization, also a rising one…so hopefully I can be a factor in winning a lot more games,” Berry added.
NOTES: Last season Berry caught nine balls for 91 yards and two TD’s, and ran back six kickoffs for 151 yards and another score when his former team lost to the Power, 56-49, in New Orleans back on Apr. 21…the Power will visit the VooDoo that same weekend this approaching season…the Power have also signed recently-graduated RMU offensive lineman Corey Konycki, a Second Team Division II Associated Press All-American on a Colonials squad that made the 2010 FCS playoffs…although it was reported several weeks ago, the Power made the return Mike Lucian, another offensive lineman, official on Friday…this brings the Power’s training camp roster to 23 players unofficially; an AFL team can carry 35 into camp.
(Special thanks to the AFL for its contributions to this post.)
(Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mpopchock)