Duffner's enthusiasm supercharges Terps, leaving him with more EMOTION IN MOTION

October 27, 1992|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK — College Park--Let's take a walk in Mark Duffner's game-day shoes. Please bring an extra pair.

He races like Carl Lewis from the Maryland 40 to the Georgia Tech 25 with his kickoff team three times. He gives 13 hugs (including one to an official) and 16 high-fives in the first half and 10 low ones in the second. He bangs shoulders with kicker Dave DeArmas after an extra point. He makes 44 trips along the sideline, and three times he pumps his fist in the air to incite the crowd.

Imagine if the Terps had won.

Even though Maryland is 2-6, no one can say this team lacks emotion. Almost every week, Duffner, 39, has worked Maryland into a frenzied state. It was never more evident than Saturday, when the Terps, after suffering an embarrassing loss to Wake Forest the week before, pulled off a miracle finish with a "Hail Mary" pass as time expired to defeat Duke, 27-25.

Listen to Terps sophomore offensive tackle Steve Ingram:

"It's the aura about him. The first day I met him I was just in awe of this man, the confidence and optimism he projected. And then, when you see him on the sidelines, getting sweaty and dirty like us, you just want to sell out for him. You want to win for him, because he's putting everything he can into this program."

Duffner preaches family and attitude. He's a stickler on fundamentals, but an innovator as well. He's a master of the psyche, using the stories, wit and ideas he learned from mentors Woody Hayes and Lou Holtz.

He'll try anything, from having his players rub the nose of statue Testudo, a replica of the team mascot, to bringing a costumed Nittany Lions mascot onto his practice field.

Duffner once opened preseason camp at Holy Cross dressed in fatigues and a four-star helmet. He then recited the opening monologue by George C. Scott from "Patton."

"Players were going absolutely nuts," said Gordie Lockbaum, a former Holy Cross running back and defensive back and Heisman Trophy candidate under Duffner. "We were fired up for weeks."

One of Duffner's favorite stories to tell is "The Wizard of Oz." He does the impressions to break the routine of everyday practice. The story also encompasses almost everything he preaches -- family, courage, brains and heart.

And then there is the serious side of Duffner.

"He's a person the young guys can relate to," senior linebacker Mike Jarmolowich said. "When he is serious, though, he can get us motivated with the way he uses his voice and hands. He can hit that voice inflection at the right time, then he starts sweating and turning bright red. By that time, you're ready to kick some butt."

Duffner always has gotten his teams to overachieve. He has done that at Maryland. The Terps have won only two games, but had fourth-quarter leads in five of the six losses.

Duffner says he is frustrated. He was 60-5-1 in six years at Holy Cross. He was Division I-AA national coach of the year three times, and his team had a 20-game winning streak before he took the job at Maryland.

"Everybody connected with this program is frustrated, and they should be," said Duffner. "Losing is unacceptable, and so is moping. Instead of complaining about what we don't have, we work to improve on what we have. Our formula for winning hasn't added up to winning consistently yet, but sometimes you can get caught up in wins and losses and lose your perspective.

"Our players are giving us the effort, and they're happy and we're progressing in the classroom. I think we're winning the overall game right now," he said.

Missing the family

Duffner leaves home for the office at 6:20 every morning and returns about 11:30 p.m.

He spends very little time with his wife, Kathy, and their three children. The family has taken only a two-day vacation in the past year.

It eats away at him.

"I've been blessed so many times," said Duffner. "I don't even consider what I do a job. But I hate not being at home. It stinks. I spend so much time with other people's kids, and I don't spend a lot with my own. I fear waking up one day and being 50 years old and not having spent time with my children [ages 7, 10 and 12].

"Over the years, I've tried to incorporate them more into my job," said Duffner. "Maybe bring them around the office more during ** the off-season. It has gotten better. I'm very lucky to have an understanding wife."

He's also fortunate to have a wife whose father was in the armed services.

"I think it helps because there were times her mom had to do a lot of things when her father was at sea," said Duffner.

Kathy Duffner said: "It doesn't bother me that he puts so much time into his work. If he wants to spend that much time, then he must really, really love it. He's very fortunate to have this career."

Does he have a career, or does his career have him?

After each game, the tan shirt is drenched with perspiration and hangs out of his brown pants. One side of his shirt collar is up and the other is down. His wet, brown hair is matted to his head and his forehead, veins bulging, is red.

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