Gelbaugh rolls credits, finally reaches TV stardom

December 02, 1992|By Steve Kelley | Steve Kelley,Seattle Times

SEATTLE -- The 35,000-or-so fans remaining at the Kingdome rose in approval and chanted his name when the Seattle Seahawks' backup quarterback entered the game: "Gelbaugh. Gelbaugh. Gelbaugh."

What a spot for this gypsy quarterback! "Monday Night Football." Frank, Dan and Al. It was the fourth quarter and the Seahawks trailed 13-3 when Stan Gelbaugh replaced roughed-up Kelly Stouffer.

The Seahawks were out of timeouts. It was closing in on midnight in the East and the nation's insomniacs were drifting toward sleep.

Gelbaugh awakened them.

"It's great to hear the cheering," the former University of Maryland quarterback said after Seattle's 16-13 victory over Denver in overtime Monday night. "But you hate to have that happen to a guy like Kelly, who's one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet."

Gelbaugh had taken a long and winding road to get to this Monday night. Nine professional teams in three leagues in three countries on two continents. His career has been an alphabet soup; the NFL, CFL and WLAF. He has been cut more times than a club fighter.

He was a punter for Saskatchewan in 1986. He was the MVP of the World Bowl for London in 1990. He was cut by Hamilton and Kansas City in 1991, Dallas in 1986, Buffalo in 1989 and Cincinnati in 1990.

Two years ago, he was out of football, selling copy machines in Carlisle, Pa. The dreams of Monday night heroics were disappearing.

But this night, he took over the Seahawks' sleepwalking no-ffense and slapped it awake.

He drove 51 yards in eight plays, settling for John Kasay's 33-yard field goal, cutting Denver's lead to 13-6, only after a would-be touchdown pass was dropped in the end zone.

In the final 1:02, without the luxury of a timeout, he completed four passes, marching the team 30 yards. His 3-yard touchdown dart to Brian Blades tied the score on the final play of regulation.

He coaxed his revived offense 40 more yards on its second possession of overtime, only to see Kasay miss a 33-yard try.

"I went right up to John and said, 'Listen, we're going to give you another chance,' " said Gelbaugh, who once kicked a game-winning 36-yarder in high school. "I knew they weren't going to score on our defense.

"John needed to go back out there and do that."

LTC The quarterback was prophet. Gelbaugh took the Seahawks 24 yards in four plays, giving Kasay the second chance, the 32-yard game-winner.

In less than two quarters, Gelbaugh completed 12 of 21 passes for 164 yards. He was the Hawks' sea of tranquility on this most bizarre night.

"I had nothing to lose," Gelbaugh said. "I'm going out there and I can just do whatever. Anything's going to be positive. I went out there and just let it all hang out. There was absolutely no reason not to let it hang out.

"This was great. ... For football thrills, this was right up there with the best of them. Winning the World Bowl was real special to me because that helped me get back in the NFL, but as far as my NFL career, this is the best."

Since he was drafted by Dallas in 1986, Gelbaugh's career has been a pigskin high-wire act. He has worked without a net, always one misstep away from disaster, or a job in sales.

Monday nights were for the Dan Marinos, Jim Kellys, Steve Youngs and Joe Montanas.

Stan Gelbaugh? He was the backup carrying the clipboard. Two years ago, he was ready to take a job selling concrete when he got a call from the World League. The hunger to try it one more time was too great.

"What more could you ask for than this?" Gelbaugh said. "A national TV audience and a chance to do something like that. That's what you work so hard for. I've been through the mill trying to get to a night like this, but it was worth the wait.

"It doesn't get much bigger than Monday night. On Monday night, everybody's watching. All 26 other teams are at home watching you. All your friends and family, no matter where they live, are watching you."

On this Monday, they saw relentlessness rewarded. They saw a gypsy quarterback who wouldn't quit find a home. They watched a Monday night that will live forever for Stan Gelbaugh.

"You know, I turn 30 this Friday," Gelbaugh said, as he walked off to do a live television interview. "What a great way to usher in the 30s!"

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