Div. I-A's loss is Towson State defense's gain

September 27, 1991|By John W. Stewart

As recently as three months ago, having two large, quick defensive linemen was only wishful thinking for the Towson State coaching staff.

In 1990, a series of season-ending injuries wreaked havoc with the team's defense, and opposing teams capitalized on the situation.

The Tigers went 2-9 and gave up school-record numbers for points and rushing yardage. And the program itself was faced with the possibility it might be discontinued.

At the same time, Bill Fisher, 6 feet 3, 275 pounds, was enrolled at Camden County Community College in Blackwood, N.J., and Mike Curcio, 6-2, 265, was at Nassau Community College in Garden City, N.Y. Neither was thinking about Towson State.

Today, they are mainstays in a defense that has given up a total of two touchdowns in two games. At the same time a year ago, the Tigers had yielded nine touchdowns and 75 points.

"They bring stability and maturity to our defense, especially the line," nine-year defensive coordinator Gordy Combs said of Fisher, a junior, and Curcio, a sophomore. "They help give us the finest quality and quantity in a line we've had in years."

"Right now, we have six quality players for the three places [Doug Irvin, Chad Yagodich, Bob Meehan and Scott Tull also play at defensive tackle and nose guard], and it has made things really competitive. Size, speed, quickness, competition -- that's why we're so much better."

Towson State, 0-2 after 10-8 and 13-7 losses, will face another 0-2 team Saturday, when Rhode Island comes to Minnegan Stadium. The Rams have lost to Richmond, 19-10, and Delaware, 42-7.

Fisher and Curcio had a bundle of Division I-A offers between them before choosing Towson.

Fisher, from Cherry Hill, N.J., enrolled at Minnesota, earned a starting position after one season, then lost it through a summer injury, became disenchanted with the situation and left. Last year, he was waiting for some of those other I-A schools to call, but his father suggested he enroll at Camden and work on his credits. And Larry Ginsberg, football coach at neighboring Woodbury High School, who had done some scouting for Towson State, began pushing Towson State.

Erroneous rumors of a bad knee in high school hurt Curcio's recruitment, and the Dix Hills, N.Y., resident wound up at Nassau, a traditional junior-college power. He played one year, being named second-team All-Coastal Conference at defensive tackle. And his coach, John Anselmo, talked to him about Towson State -- solid academics and a winning football tradition.

"I was looking at I-A schools; I didn't want to come to Towson," Curcio said.

Both players pointed to the recruiting effort by Towson State as the reason for their turnarounds.

"[Defensive line] coach [Rich] Bader impressed me, because he stayed in touch with me, and since he was actively recruiting me, I was confident the program would be OK," said Curcio, 20, who transferred in January. "I'd recommend Towson State to anyone. They were interested in me, and I got a fair chance when I got here."

Fisher, 21, who did not enroll until this summer after receiving his associate's degree from Camden, said: "What I appreciated was their honesty. I'm older now and more wise in the ways of recruiters. There was no smoke screen. They were upfront with everything."

The hardest thing for Fisher was the mental adjustment.

"I come from the Big Ten, and they play all the big schools. For me to come to I-AA, I had to deal with my personal ego," he said. "Sometimes, I can't believe I'm here.

"It was a battle within me, but I got some good advice, too. I came in humble, no Big Ten comparisons, and wanting to be comfortable in I-AA. Now, it's about a team of 100 guys working together."

Fisher has played in both games, starting one, and has seven tackles, four of them for losses and two of them sacks. Curcio missed the first game with a minor injury, then came back to get five tackles, one for a loss.

If there is any doubt in the intensity level, listen to Fisher:

"I live for Saturday. I live for the hit. I want those battle scars on my helmet -- the paint from their helmets on mine from banging heads with the guy across from me."

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