Sandwisch finally reaches top of Terps' QB menu Gets chance as starter after 4 years on bench

September 06, 1991|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Sun Staff Correspondent

COLLEGE PARK -- Despite being the No. 4, No. 4, No. 3 and No. 2 quarterback at the University of Maryland the past four years, Jim Sandwisch did master one technique -- the art of sleeping during team meetings.

"If you get caught sleeping during a film session, the coaches make you stand up," said Sandwisch. "That's kind of embarrassing. But the first two quarterbacks are the ones that get all the reps, so I used to doze off."

"First of all, you've got to sit in the back of the room, hopefully behind some big players. And sometimes, you've got to keep one eye cracked. And if you hear the coach's voice coming straight at you, then you wake up. Other times, a teammate might give you nudge to let you know the coach was about to look your way."

Sandwisch can no longer snooze during meetings. At times, he finds it difficult to sleep at all. There's special meetings with quarterback coach and offensive coordinator Jerry Eisaman. And constant interviews with the media. And weightlifting. And practice. And study time. And photo sessions.

Jim Sandwisch finally has become Maryland's No. 1 quarterback.

"I knew it would be a little demanding on my time, so I kind of expected this," said Sandwisch, who will make his debut tomorrow (noon) before approximately 37,000 at Byrd Stadium when the Terps open their season and conference schedule against Virginia.

"I like reading about the team but sometimes I get a little tired of the press nit-picking. They say Jim Sandwisch can't throw deep or that I can't take a hit. They don't say how hard I've worked or if I have a big heart. I guess this all comes with the job."

One of his biggest supporters is Eisaman.

"I think he's ready," Eisaman said. "Jim has paid his dues and h reads defenses well. I think he's going to be a great story before he's done here."

It wasn't easy for Sandwisch to reach this point. He came to Maryland as a skinny 6-foot-3, 180-pound player from Great Mills High who was known more for throwing a baseball (pitcher and shortstop) than a football.

Sandwisch was recruited by a number of major colleges for baseball (a .500 career hitter), but only Division II schools for football.

He chose to walk on at Maryland.

"Jim is a very determined kid," said Larry Sandwisch, his father. "When he wants to do something, he is going to do it. We talked about the situation, especially about the scholarship, but he wanted to be a Division I quarterback. We didn't care about paying the bill, just as long as he wanted to get a quality education. I let him know that he had our support."

Sandwisch entered a program loaded with quarterbacksRemember Dan Henning, Neil O'Donnell and Scott Zolak?

For years, the best Sandwisch could do was run the other team's offense. He ran Clemson's option almost as efficiently as the Tigers.

Before this season, Sandwisch had thrown only 24 passes. Las season, as a backup to Zolak, he completed 12 of 22 for 137 yards and had one intercepted.

"There were times I got frustrated, sure, but you've got to work through these kind of things," Sandwisch said. "I saw what happened with Henning, O'Donnell and Zolak. They all worked hard, waited their turns and then took advantage of the opportunity. I knew that if I stayed with it, I would get a chance to start for at least one year."

Sandwisch didn't get a scholarship until the end of spring practice in 1990. Head coach Joe Krivak likes to tell the story about Sandwisch having class during practice, but he would come out to the field in full gear, hold for extra points for half an hour, then go to class.

"That's dedication and commitment," said Krivak. "That showed his desire and willingness to play, and he wasn't even on scholarship."

Krivak often compares Sandwisch's desire to that of his predecessor, Zolak. Like Zolak, Sandwisch sat on the bench for four years. Like Zolak, Sandwisch is team captain and extremely enthusiastic. Like Zolak, Sandwisch is an agri-business major.

But the comparisons end there.

Zolak was 6-5, 220 pounds. Sandwisch is only 6-3, 205 on his best day. Zolak was a conventional, straight drop-back passer. Sandwisch is more elusive. Zolak may have had the most arm strength of any Maryland quarterback. Sandwisch is more of a mid-range thrower.

And Zolak threw for 2,589 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, as Maryland went 6-5-1 to have its first winning season and bowl appearance since 1985.

Doubts still exist about Sandwisch.

"I guess I'll be a little nervous before that first snap, and I want to get that first series over, whether it's three plays and out, or 12 plays and a touchdown," Sandwisch said. "But I have never thought about failure because I'm trying my best."

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