Daniel Wu stood on the sidelines of Naval Academy's Turf Field Saturday afternoon with his chin strap buckled and his mouthpiece danglingfrom his face mask.
Wu, a member of Princeton University's lightweight football team, was waiting to contribute in his team's effort to thwart the Midshipmen in an Eastern Lightweight Football League matchup.
The former star running back from Severn saw limited action earlyin the game on special teams.
Wu was finally inserted in the Tigers' backfield, but not before Navy had built a comfortable lead en route to a 33-0 drubbing of the visitors from New Jersey. Wu carried the ball twice for 4 yards and caught one pass for 6 yards.
"I don'tmind it," Wu said about his limited playing time. "Hopefully I'll beable to move up at the end of this year. If not, I'm perfectly happywith the role I have right now."
That role, as humble as it may be, is enough for a player who first stepped on a football field less than two years ago.
Besides, Wu decided to attend Princeton for one reason: academics.
A member of the Cum Laude Society and a semifinalist in the Maryland Distinguished Scholar competition, Wu was selected to the Anne Arundel County Sun's Academic-Athletic team last year. He was Severn's representative at the annual National Football Foundation Hall of Fame Scholar-Athlete dinner in Baltimore.
"I wanted to go to Princeton because of academics," said Wu, who with a 3.80grade-point average and 1240 SAT score had his pick of schools. "I love football, but I thought the heavyweights would be a little too tough for me, so I opted for lightweights."
Lightweight football is a varsity sport at Princeton as well as at Navy, Army, Pennsylvania and Cornell. Players cannot weigh more than 158 pounds two days beforeeach game. Wu, who stands 5-foot-8 and weighs 155 pounds, has found the competition in the ELFL to be anything but "light."
"The competition in this league is real tough," said Wu, who studies pre-medicine. "It's nothing like high school. Everyone here was a star in high school. You come here and you start out at the bottom."
The only bottom Wu knew at Severn was that of the pile, where he often found himself following a run. Wu, who took up the sport for the first time in his life three games into Severn's 1989 campaign, rushed for 950 yards in his seven-game season debut.
A stronger, faster and football-wiser Wu returned last year andemerged as the county's leading rusher with 1,396 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Davidsonville resident fell 24 yards shy of the breaking a school record set by Mike Fidgeon in1983, but his name and reputation at Severn remains on the top shelf.
"Everyone's really happy for him," said Severn first-year coach Jim Doyle, who served as offensive coordinator for the Admirals underDoug Williams. "He's a good kid who enjoyed a lot of success in a short period of time.
"At a small school like Severn, he could have been cocky but he stayed humble. You have to respect that in this dayand age."
"I always thought he could play Division II or III football and I still think he can, but academics is first for Danny," said Williams, Wu's former head coach, who now holds the same position at Catoctin of Frederick County. "He wanted to go to Princeton and it's been the perfect situation for him.
"Playing lightweight ball gives him a chance to play football and to concentrate on his academics. Football is the icing on the cake for him, but academics is the cake."
Right now, Wu's mouth is watering as he digs into both.