When Dan Loney left the San Jose SaberCats three years ago, he thought he was saying goodbye to the organization he had helped lead to Arena Football League prominence. With his former team recently in need of help because of an injury-depleted depth chart, though, Loney answered another call.
Loney, 33, a former Atascadero High and Cal Poly lineman who in April was named the varsity head coach at Templeton High, reached an agreement in principle earlier this week with the SaberCats, returning to the franchise he led to two Arena Bowl titles during an eight-year career that began in 2001.
The SaberCats announced the move Thursday on their website.
“It was kind of a last-minute deal,” Loney said by phone later that night. “They had their center go down and needed a replacement.”
Coming off a bye week, the SaberCats (5-7) have lost five in a row entering tonight’s 7 p.m. road game against the first-place Arizona Rattlers (11-2), which will be televised on Comcast Sports Net Bay Area.
Former Arroyo Grande High standout Mark Lewis, who started for two seasons on the offensive line at Oregon before briefly spending time with the practice squads of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and St. Louis Rams, is also on the SaberCats’ roster.
San Jose’s 18-game regular season wraps up July 23, well before the start of the upcoming prep football season along the Central Coast on Sept. 2.
Even so, given necessary summer tasks, Loney stressed to the SaberCats that if he were to join them again for the remainder of this season, doing so couldn’t take any time away from his duties with his new high school team.
“I’m going to go up there as soon as I can a day or two before the games,” he said. “One of the first things I told them was, ‘If I do this, it can’t affect what I’m doing with the kids and what I’m doing with the (Eagles’) program,’ and they understood.”
Loney, a health and P.E. teacher at Templeton, was hired as the head coach after serving as an offensive coordinator for the Eagles this past season and as a line specialist in 2009. He said he’s planning a team trip so Templeton players could attend a SaberCats game at HP Pavilion.
“It’s going to be hectic,” he said of the summer, “but I think it’s going to be fun.”
The 6-foot-1, 280-pound Loney previously played both center and nose guard for San Jose, and in his final three seasons during the first stint, he made 47 consecutive starts.
“I can’t say enough about Dan Loney and what he meant to the SaberCats and our success,” San Jose head coach Darren Arbet said in a statement. “He was one of best centers in the league and a big reason why we had one of the best offenses in the league for many years. We’re very excited to add him to our team as we look to make a push for the playoffs.”
Loney entered the pro ranks after a standout collegiate career with the Mustangs. He started for the 1997 squad that went 10-1 under his former prep coach, Larry Welsh. With the Greyhounds, he was named The Tribune’s co-San Luis Obispo County Player of the Year as a senior in 1995.
Loney said he was unsure of how much playing time he might get early on.
“I’ll kind of find out (Friday) when we go through the walk-through, and we’ll just kind of see,” Loney said Thursday.
Loney had a brief tenure in the league last year, playing for the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz, before he was offered a full-time position within the Templeton district.
“I’m a little nervous,” he said with a laugh. “I hope I can still play.”