Confidence kicks in for Hoffmann S. Carroll grad stars at Villanova

December 13, 1992|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Staff Writer

Hold on to your dreams.

Bill Hoffmann Jr. epitomizes those words every time he kicks another important field goal or extra point for the Villanova University football team.

Hoffmann, who lives in Sykesville, was a run-of-the-mill high school football player at South Carroll in 1987 and 1988.

Now he is closing in on the Villanova career scoring record held by former Baltimore Colts and Oakland Raiders star Mike Siani.

Siani, a wide receiver, had 208 points, and Hoffmann, a place-kicker and punter, has 151 through his junior year for the Division 1-AA Wildcats.

Barring injury, Hoffmann should break Siani's record next fall. He is 57 points shy of the mark, but is coming off 71 points his sophomore season and 74 points as a junior.

That is a long way from his nondescript high school days when he kicked off, punted and was asked to attempt only three field goals for the Cavaliers his senior season.

But Hoffmann didn't chalk it up to bad luck and walk away.

"A lot of things kept me going on," said the soccer-style kicker. "I always believed in myself. I knew I had the talent to kick on the college level, and my father, who had gone to a prep school in Pennsylvania [St. Francis] helped me get into a prep school [Kiski Prep near Pittsburgh]."

Hoffmann said he gained a lot of his never-ending confidence from his dad, Bill Sr., who played baseball and basketball at the University of Delaware after an outstanding athletic career at Calvert Hall.

The elder Hoffman played center field for the 1957 Calvert Hall baseball team (18-1 record) that included former New York Yankee Phil Linz at shortstop and National League umpire Fred Brocklander behind the plate.

Entering Kiski Prep proved to be the biggest break of the younger Hoffmann's athletic career. Kiski has produced two-time Olympic decathlon champion Bob Mathias and Harry Stuhldreher, one of Notre Dame's Four Horsemen.

Hoffmann had grown to 6 feet 1, 192 pounds with the help of an outstanding weightlifting program at South Carroll under coaches Ken Parker and Gene Brown, and he made his mark at Kiski in 1989.

He hit nine of 11 field-goal attempts, including 52- and 46-yarders; averaged 40.5 yards a punt, and started as a split end and cornerback.

That kicking performance prompted scholarship offers from Villanova, Pitt, Southern Methodist, West Virginia and Delaware. Hoffmann made Villanova his first visit and liked it so much that he canceled visits to the other schools.

He has been a perfect fit for a Villanova team that was in search of a kicker with long range.

The first field goal he attempted for Villanova was a 47-yarder his freshman year against Connecticut, and he hit it.

Hoffmann has helped the Wildcats compile a 25-10 record in three seasons and been a major reason for Villanova's two straight trips to the Division 1-AA playoffs.

Although the Wildcats have been eliminated by Youngstown State in close games (23-20 Nov. 28 and 17-16 in 1991) both years, the kid who loves pressure situations has been a major force in both games.

He has hit three of three field goals in the playoffs and was chosen by the coaches as the MVP in this year's loss to Youngstown.

Hoffmann put on quite a show in that game, hitting two field goals, two extra points and having all three of his punts downed inside the Youngstown 20-yard line.

His 29-yard field goal tied the game at 13 with 35 seconds left in the third quarter.

Villanova coach Andy Talley said: "It amazes me how relaxed he always is under pressure in any situation. We have tremendous confidence in Billy. He had a phenomenal season for us this year and had many go-ahead field goals that enabled us to win games we might not have won."

Hoffmann's senior teammate, two-time Division 1-AA All-America linebacker Curtis Eller, said the kid with the strong toe also won points for his ability to tackle.

"Bill really got all the guys' attention in his freshman year when he made a 47-yard field goal on his first collegiate attempt," said Eller. "But he really won our respect with two unassisted tackles, one of them saving a touchdown, in that same game when we had a breakdown in our coverage on kickoff returns."

Hoffmann was chosen by league coaches to the 1992 All-Yankee Conference first team as a place-kicker. His 74 points were the most for a Villanova junior.

As the honors roll in, it's hard to imagine what would have happened if Hoffmann had not held on to his dreams.

"In my wildest imagination, I never thought this would happen," said Hoffmann. "It hasn't come easily. There's been practice, practice and more practice. My immediate goals are to make all-conference as a place-kicker and punter and possibly be an All-American in my senior season. Then I'll think about the pros."

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