Mark Grieb might be the smartest guy in the San Jose SaberCats' huddle, and quite possibly on the field in ArenaBowl XXII.
Armed with an undergraduate degree in biochemistry from the University of California-Davis and a master's in education from Stanford, the veteran Arena Football League quarterback might even put those credentials to good use someday.
But for now, the 34-year-old veteran continues to savor and succeed playing a kid's game.
Grieb guns for his fourth AFL championship ring since 2002 on Sunday, when San Jose meets Philadelphia in Arena Bowl XXII (ABC, 3 p.m. ET) at the New Orleans Arena.
"I love playing this game," Grieb said. "I started playing quarterback when I was 12 and always dreamed of playing professionally. I'm blessed with the guys that I play with. I look forward to seeing them every day. As long as you're still healthy and have a love for the game, you still play."
Using a combination of smarts, savvy and toughness, Grieb has thrived through 11 seasons, including 10 in San Jose.
"He's a smart, intelligent guy on and off the field," AFL commissioner David Baker said. "Maybe his arm is not quite as strong to throw that 10-yard-out on the far sideline. But I'll tell you that if you took [retired Green Bay Packers quarterback] Brett Favre to come and play for the San Jose SaberCats, I'm not sure he could beat Grieb in this game."
Some could accuse the commissioner of just pumping up his league's players, but it's hard to argue with Grieb's stats or success. The SaberCats have the league's most successful team with him under center, posting a 101-37 regular season mark with Grieb steadily climbing the charts in several AFL passing categories.
Grieb has passed for 36,842 career yards and 716 touchdowns, fifth all-time in both categories. He has held several all-time AFL season records, including yards (4,841), highest single-season passing rating (133.9) and career passing rating (124.2) and highest completion percentage (73 percent).
San Jose thumped Columbus 55-33 in Arena Bowl XXI, but a shot at back-to-back titles appeared to be slipping away when the 'Cats went 3-4 in their first seven games, including a 58-57 setback at home to Philadelphia back on April 12.
"It definitely (was) tough," Grieb said. "They talk about having a championship hangover and some people would say we did and some people would say we didn't. We lost five games this year, but really finished out the year strong."
Grieb guided the SaberCats to wins in 10 of their last 11 games to reach the ArenaBowl. He was particularly effective during that late surge, including 50 touchdown passes in a six-game winning streak to close the regular season.
"Mark has been a super-consistent, solid quarterback," Philadelphia QB Matt D'Orazio said. "Come playoff time or Week 11, Week 12 he just starts heating up and becomes unbelievable."
During the regular season, Grieb went 415-of-606 for 4,613 yards and a league-leading 100 touchdowns passes. He was picked off just 18 times.
"He's a winner," Philadelphia Soul coach Bret Munsey said. "He's won a lot of championships and that is all you have to say. He's a franchise guy and franchise guys make big plays."
Grieb was offensive MVP in Arena Bowls XVIII and XXI and the league's offensive player of the year in 2002. He's landed on the All-AFL first team twice (2002 and 2005). This season, he was named offensive player of the game in 10 of 16 regular season contests.
Grieb made his pro debut in 1997 with AFL's Anaheim Piranhas. He played in eight games and threw for 1,033 yards and 20 TDs. He then spent 1998 with NFL Europe's Scottish Claymores -- one of two brief detours out of Arena Football that included a four-game stint in 2001 with the Las Vegas Outlaws of the now defunct XFL.
He joined the SaberCats in 1999 and started one game. By the next season, he was firmly in command, starting 13 of 14 games and he never looked back.
Grieb hopes to keep playing and to celebrate his 35th birthday next year on the SaberCats. But when the end does come, San Jose head coach Darren Arbet knows where Grieb's final stop will be.
"He's going to go to the Hall of Fame in this league," Arbet said. "He can really play this game."
And you don't have to be the smartest guy on the field to know that.