CEDAR RAPIDS — In the history of college football, no quarterback at any level has passed for more yards in a game than Sam Durley.
A mind-boggling 736 passing yards for Division-III Eureka (Ill.) College in a victory over Knox College three autumns ago generated plenty of buzz and landed him on ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” but the first-year Cedar Rapids Titans quarterback refuses to be defined by his statistical footnote. He’s pushing for a career in the game.
“Looking back on it, it’s something I can tell my kids farther down the road,” Durley said before the Titans lost Saturday to four-time defending Indoor Football League champion Sioux Falls, 50-45, in front of 4,375 fans at the U.S. Cellular Center. “It’s definitely something cool, but it’s definitely something I don’t want to live by.”
Durley threw for 165 yards and five touchdowns against Sioux Falls (2-0), but the Titans couldn’t get a crucial defensive stop in the second half. Cedar Rapids kicker Rockne Belmonte missed three field goals and an extra point, and the Titans turned it over twice compared to zero miscues for Sioux Falls. A 50-yard interception return touchdown by Sioux Falls defensive back DeQuan Starling off a tipped Durley pass broke a 16-16 second-quarter tie and gave the Storm the lead for good.
Had it not been for an opportunistic Illinois high school football coach, golf might have been the only sport associated with Durley. Roanoke-Benson High School in Roanoke, Ill. did not field a football team, so Durley was set to compete for the Rockets golf team. A football-only co-op agreement was reached with rival Eureka High School while Durley was a seventh-grader.
“There weren’t a whole lot of guys at my school that went out for football because it was so small,” Durley said.
First-year Eureka High Coach Kurt Barth knew Durley from church and had competed against his father, Patrick, a former baseball and basketball coach at Roanoke-Benson. Barth approached Sam with the idea of going out for football.
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“Just give it a shot, you have the rest of your life to be old and golf,” Durley recalled Barth saying. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. If you don’t take it, you might regret it down the road.”
With that persuasive statement, a 10-year union was forged. After four years together at Eureka/Roanoke-Benson, Barth accepted the head coaching position at Eureka College. Durley followed and played all four years, then joined the staff as quarterbacks coach for two years following graduation.
“He ended up being a father figure away from home,” Durley said.
Durley is no stranger to the IFL. He played for the now-defunct Wyoming Calvary last season, where he was third in the league in passing yards per game (162.4) and touchdowns (43). The franchise folded shortly after a 1-13 season.
“Couldn’t ask for anything better right now,” Durley said. “Everything is super organized, Coach Stoute is a great X’s and O’s guy, and he prepares us.”
Receivers Bryan Pray and Willie Carter each caught a pair of touchdowns Saturday for Cedar Rapids (1-1).
Carter’s 39-yard score got the Titans within a point at 33-32 midway through the third quarter, but a Durley fumble was sandwiched between two 4-yard TD runs by Sioux Falls running back Tory Harrison.
Sioux Falls quarterback Martevious Young threw for two scores and ran for another.
It was the first home loss for the Titans since being ousted in double overtime by Green Bay in 2013 at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.
Cedar Rapids travels to Billings, Mont. for a game next Sunday, before returning to the U.S. Cellular Center March 20 against Tri-Cities.
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