Predators INK QB
The Orlando Predators announced the signing of QB Jack "John" Sheehan to the 2023 National Arena League Roster on Monday. Sheehan, a St Petersburg Native returns to Professional Football in his home state after playing in Green Bay for the Blizzard in the Indoor Football League.
Sheehan attended four colleges in seven years. As a freshman, he suffered a serious ACL injury. After transferring schools, he was forced to sit out a year, then eventually found himself as his team's fourth-string QB. Sheehan's graduate school shut down mid-way through his time there as a student-athlete, and the coronavirus pandemic threatened to derail his final football season. He began his rookie year in the Indoor Football League (IFL) as the Blizzard's back-up quarterback, having been beaten out for the starting spot, and mourned the loss of a close family member in April.
And yet, through all the ups-and-downs the last seven years have thrown at him, Sheehan has stood tall and refused to give up — offering an inspiring display of faith, grace, and humility while perfecting the art of turning the difficulties and setbacks he endures into successes and triumphs.
Football became an integral part of Sheehan's life at a very young age; in fact, he was only four years old when he began playing flag football. "I moved up to tackle when I was seven, but I didn't play quarterback at first – I was an offensive lineman and a tight end," Sheehan recalled. "In sixth grade, I started playing QB, and I've been one from there on out."
Sheehan said he can't remember a time when sheer passion for this sport didn't pump through his veins. "I've always loved football, ever since I first started playing it. I used to play baseball too, but football was my favorite and it became my main focus once I got to high school."
Throughout middle and high school, Sheehan was trained and mentored by Steve DeBerg, who spent 17 years playing quarterback in the NFL. A three-year starter at St. Petersburg Catholic High School, Sheehan helped the SPC football squad win their first playoff game in nearly a decade as a junior. He then transferred to Calvary Christian High School for his senior year – joining a program that had never before notched a winning season – and led them to a 7-3 record, plus a playoff appearance.
Sheehan participated in a few Senior Bowl games in an attempt to be recruited to play professionally, sparking interest from several programs in the process. But in a roundabout way, his path led him to the Green Bay Blizzard.
"A scout from back home who's a friend of one of my former coaches connected me with an IFL scout who knows a lot of the coaches in this league," Sheehan explained. "That scout introduced my film to the coaches here [in Green Bay] and a few other IFL teams."
Arizona's Tucson Sugar Skulls were the first to offer Sheehan a contract. Additionally, one of his friends – a wide receiver for the Bismarck Bucks – put in a good word for Sheehan with his coaches, who said they would happily sign Sheehan. Finally, there was the Blizzard.
"Green Bay seemed like the best scenario, and they were the last team to offer me. I was holding out for the Blizzard because I knew they had only signed one quarterback at the time," Sheehan said. "I really wanted to come into Green Bay and compete, so when they signed me, I was super grateful and excited."
Initially, the second quarterback on the Blizzard's roster, Torrance Gibson (who is no longer with the team) earned the role of starting QB. As a result, Sheehan didn't see any playing time at the quarterback position until midway through the team's third game of the season.
He then started for the first time in Green Bay's Week Four match-up versus the Frisco Fighters and has been the Blizzard's QB1 ever since. "I'd been in that spot. I'd been a back-up before, and I knew that if I just got a chance, I could win the starting job," Sheehan recalled.
He also acknowledged that making the adjustment from traditional high school/college football to the rules and style of play in the IFL – especially as a quarterback – hasn't always been easy.
"The biggest difference is the speed of the game. Everything in indoor football happens so much faster, and on top of that, it's so much more condensed," he said. "When you play outdoor ball, you can get away with a lot because there's not as much to analyze so quickly and there's loopholes to get through if you know what you're doing. In the indoor league, you can't second guess yourself or be hesitant. I've had to practice getting better pre-snap so that I don't put myself in bad situations, because I've made some mistakes where it's like, 'Dang, I'm smart enough to not do that.'"
Still, despite the growing pains he's encountered, Sheehan said playing indoor football this season has undoubtedly made him a better QB. "Every week, I've been working on finding a balance between playing fast, playing decisive, and playing smart. Those are the keys to being a good quarterback in this league."