Dalton Sneed Sioux Falls Storm

Former Montana QB Dalton Sneed dives over two Massachusetts Pirates defenders for a touchdown while playing for the Sioux Falls Storm of the Indoor Football League on June 25 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Sneed completed his first professional football season last weekend.

MISSOULA — Dalton Sneed went tumbling out of bounds and landed in the laps of a few fans during last weekend’s regular-season football finale.

Such is a hazard of life in the Indoor Football League, where a waist-high padded wall is all that separates the field of play and spectators. But this was still football, and the former Montana Grizzlies quarterback was thrilled to be back on the field this season for the first time in over two years.

Sneed was suiting up for the Sioux Falls Storm, who are based in South Dakota and play in a professional league that runs throughout the spring and summer. He put up some gaudy stats and nearly led them to the playoffs in his first pro season after being traded early in the year.

“Whenever I can get a ball in my hands, it’s good to be out there, get that team camaraderie and be with guys who all have a common goal, guys who want to get to that next level or win a championship,” he said. “It’s good being around those guys and having fun. It’s the reason you play.”

Sneed finished his 10 games with Sioux Falls by completing 60.2 percent of his passes for 1,354 yards and 25 touchdowns compared to three interceptions. To do that, he adapted to a unique game in which the field is 50 yards long instead of 100 and is 28 1/3 yards wide instead of 53 1/3. It’s like playing on one quarter of a regular football field, meaning the passing windows are tighter, accuracy is more important, and QBs must be faster with their footwork and reads.

Just like at Montana, Sneed also showed his hard-nosed running ability as he carried the ball 92 times for 360 yards and 16 touchdowns. Having a dual-threat QB was important for the Storm because it can create mismatches while playing 8-Man football with three linemen, two receivers and one running back. Mobility is also key for punching in TDs on the ground because the end zones are only 8 yards deep instead of 10 and feature rounded edges because the game is played on top of a converted ice hockey rink.

Sneed picked up two league offensive player of the week honors and went 5-5 as a starter as the Storm finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs by half a game, snapping their streak of 20 consecutive postseason trips. It wasn’t Sneed’s fault they didn’t make the postseason. Head coach Kurtiss Riggs made sure to point out, noting defensive and special teams shortcomings.

Without Sneed's dual-threat ability, they might not have even been in position to earn a playoff berth entering the final week of the season.

“With the amount of rookies, we were really lacking leadership,” he said. “That’s where we knew Dalton would be good. We didn’t expect him to be as well-rounded as he was. You knew he was going to take control and get us back on track. He was a godsend for us as an organization and as an offense.”

Sneed’s road to his first pro playing time was a long one after he led Montana to the FCS playoff quarterfinals as a senior in 2019. UM’s Pro Day later that spring was canceled because of the pandemic, which might have affected his pro prospects, but the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League signed him.

The CFL’s 2020 season was called off because of the pandemic, so Sneed returned home and continued to train for a shot to play again. But he was released prior to the 2021 season.

His next opportunity came in the form of a roster spot with the IFL's Vegas Knight Hawks, where he started once and played twice through the first four weeks. He was then traded from that pass-heavy offense to a more balanced attack with the Storm, whose defensive coordinator is Brian Hermanson, father of former Grizzlies safety Matt Hermanson.

Set to make an impact, Sneed took a knee to the lower back on the first play of the second half of his first game. It knocked him out for two weeks, but his leadership abilities were just beginning to shine through.

He credits Griz coach Bobby Hauck with helping him develop those qualities in Missoula, and he tried to unite a team of different personalities — from recent college graduates to veterans in their 30s — by organizing team events like bowling and paintball.

“First and foremost, guys have to see that you want to be there and you’re there to work and win,” he said. “Guys see that and respect that. Every football player can see when someone is faking, doesn’t want to be there or their passion isn’t aligned. It’s how you carry yourself like a leader. I think that’s what stood out to the guys. That’s how I want to carry myself.”

Playing in the IFL doesn’t have the glitz and glamour of the NFL or top-tier college football programs. Regional travel is done on buses, which Sneed experienced on a nearly eight-hour drive from Sioux Falls to Green Bay, Wisconsin. IFL players also make $250 per game in the 16-game season, according to a 2017 article from the Argus Leader, a newspaper that covers Sioux Falls.

What the IFL does offer players in abundance is the chance to get game reps on film in the hopes of moving up the football ranks to the USFL, CFL or NFL. The league boasts 14 teams across the country, eight of which are in top-50 media markets, so there are chances to be seen.

For Riggs, it’s a cycle in which winning helps players move on to a higher level of football, which can in turn attract other quality players who could then bolster the team’s chance of winning again.

Sneed could be one of those guys to make the leap to another level. He was pondering his future and if he’d sign another one-year contract in the IFL on his drive home from South Dakota to Arizona this week. For now, he’s focused on his upcoming honeymoon at a tropical destination after he and his wife got married right when he was being traded in April.

“Dalton fit in so well because he’s so scrappy but very intelligent and picked up the system,” Riggs said. “If he’s able to come back next year and play again, I know he’s a guy we can move up.”

Frank Gogola covers Griz football and prep sports for the Missoulian. Follow him on Twitter @FrankGogola or email him at frank.gogola@missoulian.com.

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