Memories? Seahawks Manager Has Million Of Them

Power Of Total Recallpropels Craig Drucker

December 02, 1991|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Staff writer

Like any good basketball coach, South River's Kenny Dunn is open to suggestions from his coaching peers.

But as far as he can remember, he has allowed only one student -- senior Craig Drucker -- to openly question his strategy during a game and get away with it.

"He's even come right out and said 'I don't think that's such a good move, Coach.' And sometimes he's right," said Dunn, now in his 15th year and who, as an assistant to football coach Joe Papetti three years ago, enlisted the freshman Drucker as a team manager.

"He's very opinionated, but you've got to know him to understand -- he's the most spirited kid here. Before a game, he'll have a complete scouting report of the other team. From reading newspapers, he remembers names, dates and even jersey numbers."

Drucker was also the manager for the Seahawks football team, which recently completed a 9-2 seasonunder coach Dave Summey.

"He always knew before us players did about almost every player on the other team," said Chris Messineo, a running back and lacrosse player who has known Drucker since the sixth grade.

"Sometimes, after a loss, he comes straight out and tells you what the deal is. And he doesn't beat around the bush. Most of thetime it's stuff we already know, but he doesn't let you forget."

Drucker rarely forgets.

Three years ago, he was diagnosed as having "technically pervasive developmental" autism, a mental disability that can render its victims socially awkward or cause them to distort reality to varying degrees.

In many cases, and for reasons still being researched, the autistic may have an uncanny recall ability.

Drucker, for instance, can name every member of his favorite professional football team, the Washington Redskins. Just tell him what jersey number you want and Drucker names the player.

Asked when Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points, what team he played for and which team he beat when he accomplished the feat?

Drucker came up with the right answer: Chamberlain played for the Philadelphia Warriors in 1962 when they beat the New York Knicks on March 2.

Craig's parents, Lloyd and Rochelle, realized he had a learning disability when he was 3,but it was not until their eldest son, Steve, 22, rented the movie "Rain Man" two years ago that Rochelle was sure that her son was autistic.

Unlike the movie character, Craig's parents refused to institutionalize him -- as one specialist suggested when Craig was a child.Instead, they mainstreamed him into public schools and employed speech therapists to help ease the transition.

"We were realistic, notfatalistic. We wanted him to interact with normal kids and have as much mental stimulation as possible," said Rochelle, 48, an office manager for her husband's dental practice. "He really enjoyed himself inschool and to this day loves it. We held him back once in third grade, and he's still (mad) at us about that."

Craig also played soccer, basketball and tennis in the Davidsonville Athletic Association from ages 8 to 11.

"I lettered in tennis at American University and had coached it professionally for a while," said Lloyd, 53. "But Craig was my biggest challenge because he never wanted to be told what hewas doing wrong."

At 12, Craig accepted the fact that he no longer could continue in athletics the way his peers did. But he continued, almost daily, to attend competitions and to surround himself with information about sports.

"I went to my first football game at South River in 1983," said Craig, who will turn 19 in January. "I also met Coach Dunn when I was 10."

Said Dunn: "His memory is simply mesmerizing. I mean, you tell him what high school you went to and when you graduated and he'll sing you the No. 1 song out of that year. I really feel like I'm getting more out of our relationship than he is."

Upon meeting Drucker two years ago, Mitch Suplee was also "amazed"at Drucker's dazzling powers of recollection. A former football and basketball player at South River, Suplee recently completed his senior season as a center on the University of Maryland's football team.

"I popped in a couple of years ago. And when he saw me, he starts pointing at me like 'I know who you are,' " said Suplee (6 foot 4, 265pounds). "Right off, he knows my height and weight. Then he starts telling me what my past was all about, what my stats were. I was half-expecting him to know my street address.

"I was under the impression that the brain could only store so much, but his capacity to remember things -- it just never ends."

It's true that Drucker's memoryknows few boundaries.

Craig knows World War II.

"Once, during a conversation with his great uncle, he delivered a dissertation of abattle his uncle was nearly involved in," Rochelle said.

Craig knows Vietnam.

"A friend of the family was in college and had to do a report on what happened in Vietnam during the year she was born -- 1968, " Rochelle said. "He practically gave her the assignment verbatim."

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