Well-traveled quarterback Danny Southwick has learned the power of persistence in his football career
Brian Beaudry, Portland Thunder
Quarterback Danny Southwick is well-versed in traveling and learning.
His latest adventures have the Timpview High alum currently experiencing Arena Football League life in Portland, Oregon.
All totaled, Southwick has been on more than a dozen football rosters since his high school days. That, and one LDS Church mission.
Less than two weeks ago, Southwick was again handed the starting quarterback duties for the Portland Thunder and has played the past two games under center.
In the first contest on May 3, Southwick tied a Thunder record by throwing for eight touchdowns and 307 yards in the team's 61-42 victory over the Tampa Bay Storm. One of his five TD passes to Eric Rogers made ESPN SportsCenter's Top 10 plays that night, as Rogers hauled in the score before falling over the wall into the crowd.
After watching his team fall too far behind in losses earlier this season, Southwick said the Thunder had plans to strike early that night.
"My focus before the game was just we wanted to beat them to the punch, get off the block fast and not feel like we're chasing points all night," he said. "Fortunately for our team, we were able to accomplish that and get 20 points in the first quarter and really have a positive first half to the very end."
On Sunday, though, Southwick and the Thunder weren't so fortunate, as the Arizona Rattlers prevailed, 61-32. Southwick threw five touchdown passes, but also three interceptions.
Southwick sees the opportunities for his 2-6 expansion team to learn from its mistakes and build confidence.
"Maybe in weeks past, I don't know if we would have had the confidence to respond to all our mistakes in the third quarter," Southwick said after the win over Tampa Bay. "It was great to be able to go out and take those power punches and then refocus and respond and put the victory away."
The road that has taken the Provo native to the Northwest has been extremely unique, filled with bumps — and blessings — along the way.
Coming out of high school, Southwick signed with BYU in 2000 but never played a down. Following his church mission to Fort Worth, Texas, he transferred to Oregon State, then Dixie College, then the University of Utah, then back to Dixie, and finally to Occidental College, a Division III school in Los Angeles.
His pro career has also had its fair share of stops.
Southwick played for Louisville in the Arena Football 2 league in 2008, but his chances to move up to the AFL were temporarily dashed when the league suspended play in 2009.
Then, in early May 2009, he was invited to an Oakland Raiders mini-camp. Though he was cut later that summer, Southwick said he stuck around with the organization for the next two years before legendary Raiders owner Al Davis sat him down and let Southwick know things wouldn't work out in Oakland.
Back to the AFL.
Since 2011, Southwick has played for five organizations: Tampa Bay (2011), the San Jose SaberCats (2012), the Cleveland Gladiators (2013), the Chicago Rush (2013) and now Portland. He even spent time on the San Antonio Talons early last year.
"I've learned how to deal with adversity and not having things turn out the way you want them to turn out but still make the most of it," Southwick said. "We can change our situation with really hard work. I don't know if I always understood that."
All through this, he's thrown for 2,016 yards, 33 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in the AFL, with most of those stats coming this season in Portland.
"My wife is so supportive," Southwick said. "She's put up with so much more moves than anyone should have to go through. She is there right with me every single time."
Family has played a vital role for Southwick, who lives in Provo during the offseason, and it's a family with some familiar names: His uncle is former BYU quarterback Bret Engemann, and his stepfather is television and radio show host Larry King.
"I have the best family in the world and they've all been really supportive of me. They've tried to help me with things that are meaningful to me, and when things are down, they've always been there to pick me right back up," Southwick said. "I would not have been able to be as persistent as I have been without family and friends and particularly my wife.
"I hit the jackpot with my family."
On the field, the adversity and challenges haven't stopped this year.
Southwick joined the Thunder weeks into the season after a pair of rookie quarterbacks, including former Oregon Duck Darron Thomas, struggled in the team's first two games. Less than a week later, he took over for Thomas in the team's third game, an eventual 44-34 loss to fellow expansion team L.A. Kiss. But Southwick threw for four touchdowns that day and earned the start the next week against Spokane.
That game didn't go as planned, though, as the Shock stymied Southwick and the Thunder. After Spokane built a 20-0 lead, Southwick led Portland back, even taking a 21-20 lead early in the third quarter. But the Shock scored the next 35 points to put the game away, and two Southwick turnovers led directly to Spokane scores.
With that, the Thunder saw a need to again make a change, bringing in veteran AFL quarterback Kyle Rowley. Southwick was out as the starter, and Rowley went 1-1 at the helm the next two games.
But the window for Southwick reopened again when Rowley was sidelined by an injury, and Southwick led his team to victory against the Storm.
Though at this point it's unclear how long Rowley will be out, Southwick is thankful for the chance to be back out on the field leading his team.
"I think for the next little bit, I'll be under center. It's a good opportunity," he said. "Obviously, you don't want to see another guy get hurt, but anytime you get an opportunity to play, you want to be ready and go out there and capitalize on your own opportunities. You don't know how long you get, you know?"
Beyond football, Southwick has big plans. They include earning his MBA from UC Irvine — he's just a few credits shy — and Southwick acknowledges football has benefitted him on this frontier by opening doors for him.
"People like to talk ball with football players," he said. "Ultimately, doing my MBA is more about being qualified to do something (beyond the sport). Obviously, I want to play football as long as I can, but nobody can play forever."
Through all the twists and turns of his football career, Southwick has learned plenty of lessons, and they've shaped who he is today.
"You can do a lot more than you think you can when you have persistence," he said. "I learned how to be grateful for the moment, for the opportunities. You don't know how long you can play any game. You don't know how many plays you're going to get. You can either be afraid of that, be afraid of how you'll do, or you can really be happy and thankful for the chance to go do something you love to do.
"For as long as I'm playing football, I have to remember to be super grateful for every opportunity. I feel what I do is the greatest job in the world."
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @brandonljudd
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