Power's Killeen racking up sacks
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You can excuse Jake Killeen if he isn't especially excited about setting a Power single-season record for sacks.
After all, he needs 31⁄2 more than the 61⁄2 he has collected this season. His career depends on it.
Killeen, the 28-year-old defensive lineman, made a vow to his girlfriend before the season that if he didn't get 10 sacks, he would retire.
“I would come home and hang up my cleats,” he said.
Killeen's football journey already has been longer than many players, including:
• Youth football at age 7, followed by a state championship at Reno (Nev.) High School.
• Stops at three colleges, starting with Saddleback (Calif.) Junior College, transferring to Nevada and ending up at Charleston (S.C.) Southern.
• Three teams in the Indoor Football League.
• Short stays in the Canadian Football League and with the Indianapolis Colts.
• Three teams in the Arena Football League before joining the Power this year.
That's enough bus rides and moving vans for anyone, but Killeen has no intention of giving it up now. With the Power taking a six-game winning streak into Philadelphia on Saturday for an important American Conference East showdown, Killeen is having too much fun.
“I get paid to play a kids' game,” he said. “I would much rather being doing this than sitting behind a desk. It's nice to be able to do what you love. When you're a kid you say, ‘I want to do this when I grow up.' To be able to actually do it ...”
Killeen admits falling short of 10 sacks over the Power's final six regular-season games could create problems at home.
“I'm not trying to be done playing ball,” he said. “If I don't get (10 sacks), I'm going to have some arguing to do.”
The Power appear to have a future that goes beyond the regular season, holding a three-game lead in the wild-card race over Philadelphia, Iowa and Tampa Bay (all 6-6). The top two among those nondivision leaders qualify for the playoffs.
Killeen believes the Power have the necessary intangibles to make a run at an AFL title.
“We have a lot of good character, a lot of leadership, a lot of experience,” he said. “As long as we can get everybody healthy come playoff time, we have a good shot.”
Even after the Power's 65-26 victory against New Orleans on Saturday, they continue to be plagued by injuries. Defensive back Virgil Gray missed his third consecutive game, and wide receiver Prechae Rodriguez was out for the eighth time this season. Both have high ankle sprains.
Rodriguez played the previous two games, but he told coach Ron James last week he didn't believe he was sharp at practice.
“He said, ‘Coach, I don't want to look past (New Orleans), but I want to make sure I am fully healthy for the weeks to come,' ” James said. “We want to make sure he'll be ready for the stretch drive.”
Everyone — not just Killeen — has a lot at stake.
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.
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