Hopkins gives Frees a deserving hand

The Inside Stuff

November 18, 1991|By Bill Tanton

The scene on the football field at Western Maryland after the school's 24-21 win over Johns Hopkins Saturday was a new one for me.

The Hopkins coaches were lined up to shake the hand of the opposing player, Eric Frees, who had almost single-handedly beaten them.

Frees ended his college career by carrying 48 times for 205 yards and two fourth-period touchdowns to lead the Green Terrors to a storybook, season-ending victory.

Augie Miceli, formerly the head coach at Calvert Hall, now Hopkins' offensive line coach, was the first to race over to grab Frees' hand. Then came Bob Benson, Jack Kendall, head coach Jim Margraff and Richie Schell. It was precisely the right thing for the Hopkins coaches to do.

Frees has been carrying Western Maryland's offense for four years and, finally, he was able to lead the Terrors to victory over their arch-rivals, their first since 1982.

There's an inclination to explain Frees with numbers, such as the 6,871 all-purpose career yards he gained, an NCAA Division III record. But numbers omit the best part of the story.

Elsewhere in that post-game scene, Western Maryland's sixth-year coach, Dale Sprague, was delivering an emotional dissertation on his tailback.

"The greatest thing Eric has is character," said the hoarse and drained Sprague. "He's an unselfish player in a world of greedy athletes."

Sprague turned to Frees and proclaimed: "Number 5, you carried a whole bunch of people into the end zone with you for those last two touchdowns."

Added Sprague: "This game was a classic. These schools, both of them committed to academics, are arch-rivals. And yet there was no dirty stuff, no fights. You didn't even see any jawing out there. This is the kind of game you dream of being in when you go into coaching. This is college football as it should be."

Frees, from Ephrata, Pa., is unassuming but he's not lacking in confidence.

"I'd like to have a shot with some NFL team," he said quietly. "The pros have been up here to time me. Beyond that, I don't know what they're thinking."

They're thinking, no doubt, that Frees is too small. He's 5 feet 8, 185 pounds. They're thinking Western Maryland is hardly a springboard to the NFL.

But they were thinking that sort of stuff about Towson State's Dave Meggett three years ago.

Frees is amazingly durable. In four years, he has missed only half of one game because of injury. The guy has genuine talent. And as Sprague reminds us, he has character.

* No one, not even Eric Frees, will ever replace Bill Shepherd in the minds of Western Maryland old-timers as the school's all-time greatest back. Shepherd was the star when the team, coached by Dick Harlow, was ranked No. 10 in the nation in 1935.

Stoney Willis was the quarterback when Shepherd, who went on toplay for the Detroit Lions, was at Westminster. Willis was asked what made Shepherd great.

"Bill Shepherd," he said, "would step in his grandmother's face if she was going to keep him from scoring a touchdown. He would rather run over a tackler than around him. But Eric Frees is the best we've had since Shepherd."

* Glenn Davis, saying he's 100 percent healthy after missing 113 games last season, is not even concerned about the dimensions of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Says the slugging first baseman:

"If I get my pitch, I'll hit it out of the park anyhow. I can hit it out there in leftfield, centerfield or rightfield."

* Boogie Weinglass proved several things when he met the press at the Cross Keys Deli the other afternoon, foremost among them that he'll be a fans' owner if he gets the NFL franchise here. Asked what he'd name the team, Boogie said:

"I'd call [Robert] Irsay to see about getting the Colt name back. But it's not important what I think the name should be. It's important what the fans think. The team is for the fans.

"I think we should have a poll to see what they think. We should let them pick the colors of the uniforms. I can't believe they didn't have a poll here to let the fans pick the name for the new ballpark."

Weinglass, at 50, has become a multi-millionaire in business, but he has not forgotten what it was like to grow up here on John Unitas and the Colts of the glory days. Boogie and his partners would be in football not to make money, though they're not looking to lose it, but to have fun. That means they'd insist on winning -- which is what fans like best of all.

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