Like most returning members of the Towson State University football team, John Loch is eager to get the 1991 campaign under way.
A 2-8showing by the Tigers last season, coupled with the threat by the administration to terminate the program because of financial problems, was more adversity than any starting freshman offensive tackle deserved.
But Loch has managed to keep the past in perspective and the future in focus.
"We were not proud of our record last year, but we realized we were young," said Loch, an Arundel High graduate and one offour underclassmen on Towson's interior line last season.
"Everyone was just learning, and we knew what the future held for us. We knew with everyone back this year we would be twice as good.
"Everybody is so positive about winning, it's incredible. I think everybody remembers the pain of losing last season and are psyched to get this season going."
With the dark clouds hovering over Towson football last fall, Loch was forced to take cover. The 6-foot-4, 262-pounder looked into some of the schools who showed interest in him in high school, but he never contacted any of them.
"Nobody wanted to abandon the program, but we had to prepare ourselves for the worst," said Loch, an All-County selection and a two-way tackle for Buddy Hepfer's Wildcats. "Everybody just held on tight until the final decision was made."
That decision came Dec. 3, when the Faculty Senate voted to keep the program at the Division I-AA level.
"Finally, we knew we could settle in and everyone could be a little more comfortable," saidLoch. "I made a lot of friends on the team, and I didn't know if we would be playing together this year or be a thousand miles away.
"We bonded very well after that (decision to keep the program), and wefound one cause in common and committed toward it. Everything has been positive since then."
With the off-the-field distractions gone,Loch said he is ready to put his energy toward creating holes for his running backs and halting penetration by defenders.
"My goal this year is not to make any mistakes," said Loch, who is described in the Tigers' media guide as a "quality performer who has developed sizeand shown constant improvement."
"I made my share (of mistakes) last year by getting beat inside. But I learned a lot and matured a lot. I went against a lot of quality players, and it was a growing experience for me."
Loch's growth, both physically and mentally, does not come as a surprise to veteran coach Phil Albert.
"John's made progress in every area, and he grew up a great deal after last year,"said Albert, who enters his 20th season as head coach of a program that has participated at three levels of NCAA competition. "He's an outstanding kid and an outstanding player. When we recruited him we knew he would be good.
"He's a competitor with an interesting personality. His personality is such that he keeps everybody on the team loose, and he's always got a story to tell."
Loch's latest tale involves him and two teammates shaving their hair into mohawks on the eve of summer camp.
"We just wanted to do something different," said Loch, who altered his hair along with his roommates and fellow linemenKarl Nieberlein and Andy Rehkemper. "We thought it might help pump the team up."
With their season starting a week later then normal, the Tigers should have time to inflate their egos and their confidence. Towson State opens its season at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, at home against Boston University.
"I can't wait to get things started,"said Loch, who bench-pressed 335 pounds and squatted 540 in preseason strength tests. "I feel great. I've achieved all the goals I set for myself in the off-season. Now I just want to play."