Few county athletes ever get the chance to play their sport professionally.
But Bob Schaeffer, a football standout at Westminster High in the late 1960s, not only got the chance, signing a contract with the Baltimore Colts, he walked away when he got tired of the game.
Now a vice president and general manager of Elliott and Frantz, a heavy equipment dealership in Jessup, Anne Arundel County, Schaeffer, 39, said he left the Colts' training camp as a rookie in 1973 because he was "burned out."
A lot of the problem, he said, was that the Colts wanted him to be a punter, a specialty position that doesn't feature much playing time. "I was never really gung-ho to just be a punter," Schaeffer said. "It was boring, really, to stand on the sidelines and watch as the rest of the team went through practice. I'd just kick balls and then chase after them."
So Schaeffer gave it up, walking away from a less-than-princely starting salary of $14,000 a year to make use of his marketing degree from Villanova University in the business world.
He never played organized football again.
"I was called several times in 1974 or 1975 to come in and break strikes, cross the picket lines," Schaeffer said. "I called them back and said I wasn't interested."
Schaeffer's football playing days began in 1965, when, as a freshman at Westminster High, he participated in the Optimists' football program.
He learned the game well, playing on the school's junior varsity team as a sophomore and starting at quarterback on the varsity squad as a junior and senior.
Jim Head, football coach at the school for most of Schaeffer's varsity career, said the Owls relied on a passing offense to take advantage of Schaeffer's arm.
"He was an outstanding passing quarterback," Head said. "He was just a very good general athlete. I thought he would play quarterback in college, but he was willing to play wherever they told him to. He was very coachable."
When he and the rest of the offense weren't successful in airing the ball out, Schaeffer would take the long snap and punt, a skill that eventually led to his brief pro stint.
"He was an outstanding punter," Head remembered. "It was a very good weapon for us."
His arm strength coupled with a 45-yard punting average enabled him to get a free ride at Villanova, where the Wildcats played him at several positions.
"I was the starting quarterback my freshman year at Villanova on the freshman team," Schaeffer said. "My sophomore year I was a defensive halfback and a linebacker. That's probably because they recruited 12 quarterbacks when I was a freshman."
He continued punting though, and as a junior and senior got most of his playing time as a starting tight end.
Schaeffer, working out of a pro set offense, had the opportunity to catch passes and even scored three times, against Holy Cross, Boston College and the University of Kentucky.
But it was a game his senior year against Maryland that he remembers most.
"We progressively beat up on the University of Maryland each year," Schaeffer said. "My senior year I caught eight passes against them."
Which was nearly one-third of the passes (25) he caught the entire season.
It was his punting, though, that garnered attention.
"I was ranked eighth nationally as a punter my senior year," Schaeffer said. "I finished with a 42.7-yard average."
When he wasn't drafted into the NFL, he signed a free-agent contract with the Colts and spent a week at their Towson State training camp in 1973, in a half-hearted attempt to make the team.
Schaeffer said by that time he was interested in more than punting.
"Even with the scholarship to Villanova, you went to school there to go to class, not to play football," he explained. "It was not necessarily a goal of mine to play professionally.
"When you go through and play high school football, it's just tremendously different to go to college and play a major schedule. We spent 30 hours a week on practice and in the classroom, going over game films. And I took 16 credit hours in classes.
"So you get burned out after a while, playing an 11-game season. We got on campus in August and worked through the winter in optional workouts that weren't really optional."
Schaeffer said he's still active these days, though his games have changed.
After playing most of the 1980s for Capital Cake, a Baltimore-based slow-pitch softball team that played at least 100 games each summer, he now works on hitting a much smaller ball, playing golf several times each month.
He and his wife, Tracey, live in Ellicott City, where their sons, Peter, 14, Matthew, 10, and Patrick, 8, are getting involved in sports themselves.
"All of my kids play ice hockey," Schaeffer said. "My oldest is a very avid player. He was on an all-star team that went to Russia to play last year, and that was very exciting for him. I was with him, and it was exciting for me, too."