In a season that was marred by many obstacles, due to multiple cancellations and woes concerning ticket sales, it seemed like the Toledo Crush would never play a game. Relocation from Cleveland, the franchise was maligned by the loss of emotional leader Theresa Petruziello to the Omaha Heart. Said loss was compounded by the departure of promising quarterback Tia Knipper.
At any level of football, the quarterback tends to be one of the most identifiable (if not popular) players on the roster. Complemented by the glamour of the position, it is difficult for a rookie to step in and take the lead. Taking into the account that the Crush were looking for a new quarterback, they could not have asked for a better choice than rookie sensation Arika Hoffman.
The most important aspect of assuming the quarterback role, especially for a rookie is the poise and maturity required. In this regard, Hoffman has succeeded beyond all expectations. Similar to Las Vegas Sin rookie pivot Sindy Cummings and Dakota Hughes, another exceptional rookie quarterback lining up behind centre for the Atlanta Steam, Hoffman has made a remarkable impression in her debut.
With a background in basketball, softball and cross-country running at Liberty Centre High School, the 23-year old is more than just a multi-sport talent. Working as a nurse technician since last summer, Hoffman’s commitment to good health and elite physical performance is a way of life. She manages to also sandwich in work as a Personal Trainer. From one-on-one and group training to sport specific and bootcamp training, Hoffman certainly brings a tenacity and endurance. Such qualities will provide Toledo head coach Ben Kelly, a former NFL athlete with Miami and New England, with a key component to his offensive attack.
Competing on home soil against the Baltimore Charm, a consistent postseason contender, Hoffman gave one of the finest performances by a rookie quarterback making their debut in recent memory. Despite a new-look defense that allowed 54 points in the heartbreaking loss, Baltimore had already played one game this season, making them better prepared. Despite being sacked three times, Hoffman showed great resiliency, employing a never say die attitude.
Throwing four touchdowns in a remarkable display of offensive fireworks, her performance helped instill a sense of confidence for a team making its debut in front of the Toledo faithful at Huntington Center. Statistically, Hoffman finished the game ranked as the third highest rated passer in the league with a sparkling rating of 96.7. Notwithstanding completing only 42.9 percent of her passes, her passing yardage of 165 yards was the highest single game performance of any rookie quarterback this season.
Having already established herself as a leader, Hoffman’s shoulders do not have to bear such a burden alone. Tamar Fennell, the greatest player in the history of the franchise (also the only player to score a touchdown in the American, Australian and Canadian versions of the league), joined the franchise in its move to Toledo, ensuring a strong running game remains intact. The remarkable twin sister combination of Alisha and Amanda Linstrom (from Livonia) bring valuable experience to Toledo, having won the 2013 league title with the Chicago Bliss.
On a Toledo club with over a dozen new faces, Hoffman is not only injecting optimism into a club looking to finish the season with its first-ever playoff berth, she is emerging as the face of its franchise. Quickly capturing the hearts and minds of fans and teammates alike, Hoffman looks ready for greater performances this season.