SaberCats’ play­making tandem ready to pounce

SAN JOSE — San Jose SaberCats quarterback Russ Michna is excited to throw to recipient of the 2013 J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Year Award, Reggie Gray — and why shouldn’t he be?

Not only does a wide receiver of Gray’s caliber add another dangerous weapon to the SaberCats offense — ranked sixth overall in 2013 season — but his speed and athleticism give Michna a constant deep threat and the ability to make big plays night after night.

And don’t be worried about Michna and Gray needing to get acquainted with one another. Their history began at the collegiate level and carried over briefly into the AFL, where they shared a few years together playing for the Chicago Rush.

However, Gray told SFBay their relationship has sentimentality as well as familiarity:

“His first ever pass, completion, touchdown, came to me on my first reception, catch, yards and touchdown. It was on, I think, a 71-yard bomb at West Illinois.”

The 71-yard connection between Michna and Gray seemingly sparked a metaphorical one between the two players as well, as their career paths have seemingly mirrored each other since then.

The pair entered the AFL three years apart — Michna, at 33 is four years old and was three years ahead at West Illinois — though both made their rookie debuts with the Chicago Rush.

Michna and Gray shared the 2011 and 2012 seasons together before Michna joined the SaberCats in 2013. It seems only fitting then that after a season apart, Gray will make his 2014 season debut in a SaberCats uniform-lined up next to Michna.

Surely, this is all just a coincidence, but one that Michna is more than happy to welcome:

“I’ve had the pleasure of being around Reggie since he was 17 years old. He’s a really talented guy. He’s not the biggest individual you’ll meet but he’s unbelievably good at what he does, and I’m really excited to have him.”

Though the pair’s first preseason together in a SaberCats uniform has been limited due to Gray’s restricted participation in practices-due to nagging injuries, Michna expects there to be no problem rekindling the chemistry between the two familiar veterans:

“Talking to him, I think we are still gonna be on the same page. He has a great understanding of the game, which is all you can hope for in a guy as talented as him.”

Gray is coming off a career year, where he put together a 140-reception, 1,978-yard and 46-touchdown season with the Chicago Rush.

Along with Jason Willis — who led all SaberCats WR’s in 2013 with 123 receptions, 1,606 yards and 35 touchdowns — Gray will join a receiving core that was ranked fourth-overall in the AFL last season.

Michna returns as the SaberCats starting quarterback following a 3,116 yards, 68 touchdown season where he started 13 games in 2013.

The SaberCats open the season on the road against newly formed AFL franchise, the Portland Thunder, on Monday at 7 p.m. Television coverage of the game will be covered on CBS Sports Network.