Veteran QB J.J. Raterink embracing opportunity with LA KISS
ANAHEIM, Calif. — You’ve probably never heard of J.J. Raterink. But you might have heard of the guy whose records he broke in Iowa: Kurt Warner.
Raterink, the 32-year-old former backup quarterback for Wyoming that was recently traded to the new Arena Football League, the Los Angeles KISS, had a breakout season with the Iowa Barnstomers in 2012 and may finally have a chance to showcase his football talents as Colt Brennan was released before even playing a game, due to signs of brain trauma showing up on his physical.
"We’re excited. J.J. has been a successful quarterback in this league. I believe he’s one of the top five quarterbacks in this league," said head coach Bob McMillen. "We never had the opportunity to see what Colt can actually do. We came into camp expecting Colt to really push J.J. Raterink for the starting position. We had to release Colt because of his safety and not take any chances with him."
Raterink wracked up a Crash Davis-like list of semi-pro and minor league stops, backing up many and even working for a short stint at Enterprise Rent-A-Car. He’s gone as far as Alaska to play and, like many, thought about leaving the game. But he has steadily improved since entering the league in 2010. He’s not the hometown hero story that Brennan, a Laguna Beach native out of Mater Dei, would have been, but he’s got his own attributes after 10 years in and around the Arena league and every other league in between.
"Given my position and my years in the league, I am one of the leaders," Raterink said. "I think that leadership is something that you don’t make somebody a leader. It’s kind of an inherit quality that comes out. Personally, I feel like I do have that when I say things or I ask the guys to do something, they do it.
"And hopefully I bring the best out of the players both on and off the field."
Brennan’s story may not be over but there won’t be any part of it written with the KISS. Team officials had hoped for a competition at the position but felt it was too risky to take a player that failed a physical, especially where head injuries are concerned. The one-time Heisman hopeful and former Washington Redskin had much bigger plans for his career than being out of the game completely at age 30. Even those on the team that never got the opportunity to be his teammate had hoped for a comeback for the hometown kid.
"You certainly never want someone to get hurt and I got to know Colt a little bit and he’s a great guy. Obviously a very talented football player," Raterink said. "To see that for him, if possibly his career is cut short because of that, it is unfortunate."
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In a way, Brennan’s injury has helped him see his own goals more clearly and made his decision to continue playing an easy one.
It’s now Raterink’s job and possibly his time to finally make a name for himself.
"To see somebody unfortunately have an injury that kept him out, it can put into perspective what they have done and walk away from the game happy," Raterink said. "Because none of us want to give up the game. All of us want to play as long as we can."