Stan Gelbaugh's evenings are too calm. The telephone at his in-laws' house in Bethesda isn't ringing off the hook with calls from NFL general managers inviting him to training camp. And he doesn't understand why.
The former University of Maryland quarterback says he deserves another chance -- his fourth -- to try to make it in the NFL. In the first season of the World League of American Football, he accomplished everything he set out to do. He led the London Monarchs to victory in the World Bowl for the league title and was voted WLAF Most Valuable Player.
But he says that he is being penalized for being successful.
"My situation is a little screwed up," said Gelbaugh. "I kind of got bitten because there's a clause in my World League contract stating that after Jan. 15, any NFL team that invites you to camp has to pay double your contract."
The base salary for players in the WLAF is $25,000, but Gelbaugh made $65,000 more in bonus money, so an NFL club would have pay the WLAF $180,000 to acquire the rights to him. The money would be equally divided among the league, Gelbaugh and the Monarchs.
"My agent [Joe Senkovick] is trying to work through it, but nobody is trying to buy out my $180,000 contract," said Gelbaugh, who is thinking about going to graduate school if he doesn't get picked up by an NFL team. "It's a bad situation for me. I kind of look at it as being penalized for having played well. It was in the contract, but I never thought it would affect me the way it has."
But has it really?
"When you look at it realistically, in today's world, $180,000 is not a lot of money for an NFL club to sign a player and consider it a signing bonus," said Vince Casey, director of information for the WLAF.
But Senkovick says that is the major reason NFL teams are not calling Gelbaugh.
"It doesn't make sense to me," said Senkovick. "I guess they figured that they would get all the best players in before Jan. 15. Unfortunately, you have the best player in the league not signed. He could cost anywhere from $180,000 to what he is signed for.
"A lot of teams have budgets, and I guess they didn't figure that they would have to pay $650,000 a year for a quarterback, though I'm not saying that's what we're asking for."
Gelbaugh made WLAF history when he threw the league's first touchdown, a 96-yarder to Jon Horton. He also led the league in passing efficiency, attempts and combined yards.
"That was my most rewarding year in football, especially after thinking my career was over," said Gelbaugh. "I thought, 'I'm out of football,' and then boom, I'm back in football. I was on a real good team where I had a lot of guys behind me, so I got to throw the ball a lot and I put up the numbers.
"Now I'm getting bitten again with this contract. I'm sure that without it, I would get invited to camp, but that buyout is kind of stiff for someone who has never played in the NFL."
Gelbaugh has suited up with the Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals, but has never taken a regular-season snap. However, after being drafted by Dallas in the sixth round in 1986 and then released during preseason, he had marginal success with the Canadian Football League's Saskatchewan Roughriders. But not as a quarterback.
The Roughriders got their money's worth out of his foot. Gelbaugh boomed 45 punts for an average of 42 yards. But they released him that August. Sacramento Surge defensive coordinator Jim Hasslett, who had played with Gelbaugh in Buffalo, called him in Bethesda and urged him to try out for the World League.
Gelbaugh was selling copiers at the time, and it didn't take much
persuasion. "I wanted to make the money, and that's no secret," he said.
"I never got a chance to play [in the NFL]. The only time I was on the field was in preseason. But I'm sure that if I had played like I did this year, I wouldn't have been cut. But that's the way the tables have kind of turned."
But there is hope.
"We don't have anything yet," said Senkovick. "I'm calling all 28 teams, but a lot of them are on vacation, so it's frustrating, and I'm sure it's frustrating for Stan. Quarterbacks need to get going. But I've never failed to get my man a job.
"I still have a few tricks."