Just a couple of upright guys Schenk puts hero's role behind him

September 28, 1990|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Evening Sun Staff

ANNAPOLIS -- It took Frank Schenk a lot longer than Elliot Uzelac to descend from the high of Navy's intoxicating football victory over Army last December.

Forty-eight hours later, Uzelac was fired as coach.

For Schenk, who kicked the 32-yard field goal with 11 seconds left that nipped the Cadets, 19-17, the euphoria lasted for months. Everybody at the academy was so excited, and the back-slapping and praise continued so long, that Schenk said he had difficulty putting his foot to the grindstone again.

"It was hard getting back to practice," Schenk said. "I had a really bad spring. I'm sure the new coach [George Chaump] was saying to himself, 'This is the same guy who beat Army?' "

The kick was by far the biggest of his life. Bigger, certainly, than his two fourth-quarter field goals that beat Villanova last week, 23-21.

"Not even close to the Army game," he said. "There was so much emotion in that one."

No matter what he does here tomorrow against Boston College -- that won't even be close, either. He already knows what it's like to star against BC. Last year he kicked a pair of field goals in Navy's 27-24 win.

A senior from Pembroke Pines, Fla., Schenk was Navy's leading scorer last year with 49 points, a total consisting of 13-for-13 in extra points and 12-for-17 in field goals. This year he is 8-for-8 and 3-for-4.

In retrospect, it occurs to Schenk that he could have been Navy's field goal kicker for four years. As a plebe, he was neck-and-neck with Ted Fundoukos when the incumbent hurt his leg before the opener. In Fundoukos' absence, Schenk made one field goal in four tries and missed one of his three extra-point attempts.

"I succumbed to the pressure," he said. "Teddy came back and didn't miss. Naturally, he kept the job the next year while I only kicked off. But that experience and my mistakes help me deal with the pressure now."

When Schenk went home last summer, he knew it was time to put the game-winning kick against Army behind him. He kicked every day, counseled by his father, Frank, an old punter, and a coach at his Cooper City High alma mater, Ken Butler.

"Dad is the holder," Schenk said. "He can tell exactly what I'm doing wrong because he's been watching me for eight years. He started me in soccer when I was 6, saw I had a decent leg and suggested at the end of junior high that I try football."

After weeks of intensive kicking at home, Schenk returned in fine form and showed Chaump and his assistants he was indeed the guy who beat Army. He also showed Chaump he did not fit the kicker stereotype of a flake.

"Coach [Kevin Rogers] told me I'm not a typical kicker, because I'm not a head case," Schenk said. "He calls me normal, like any other guy. I work at that, try to fit in rather than be an exception. It helps me feel part of the team. Rather than stand around during practice, I do things, like catch the ball for the coaches during drills."

Schenk felt very much a part of the team after last year's 10-9 loss to Delaware. He kicked three field goals that day, but missed a chip shot with 20 seconds remaining.

"No one pointed fingers, accusing me of losing the game," Schenk said. "Instead, they rallied around me."

Three weeks later, in the waning seconds of the Army game, RTC Schenk found his spot on the field where he wanted his holder, quarterback Alton Grizzard, to put the ball.

"Let's do it, big boy," Grizzard said, attempting to loosen him up.

Schenk did it. Afterward, he parried the praise as well as he could.

"You won it, you won it, people kept saying," Schenk said. "I didn't feel that way. Without the team, I wouldn't have been in there."

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