Hoffman looks to get foot in NFL's door

January 07, 1994|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Staff Writer

After beating the football odds to make it big in high school and at Villanova University, Bill Hoffmann Jr. is preparing for the ultimate challenge in his career.

Hoffmann, a South Carroll graduate, will try to catch on with an NFL team as a free-agent punter or place-kicker.

"The odds are not in my favor," said Hoffman, who has been contacted by the New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles.

"Any guy who is not drafted in the first, second or third rounds out of college has a tough time making it. The chances are remote I would be drafted. They usually don't draft punters and place-kickers."

So what else is new for Hoffmann? Tough times and long odds are all he has known since his high school kicking days for the Cavaliers.

"I'll get stronger and better and work like I've never worked in my life," the Villanova senior said this week from his home in Sykesville.

The Jets, Falcons, Browns and Eagles have asked for resumes, and he has filled out questionnaires from those teams.

But he still is waiting for an official invitation to the NFL scouting combine camp that is conducted in Indianapolis each year.

Hoffmann offers NFL teams the flexibility to use him as a punter and field-goal kicker, but the two kicking arts are so specialized that a player only does both in the NFL in emergency situations.

Before his senior season at Villanova, it looked as if Hoffmann would be considered primarily a field-goal kicker by the NFL. He made a 47-yarder on his first collegiate attempt for the Wildcats and had compiled 151 points through his junior season.

The 151 points put him in a good position to surpass wide receiver Mike Siani (208 points) as the career scoring leader at Villanova.

But 14 starters for the Wildcats went down with injuries this season, and the team couldn't move the ball. Hoffmann rarely had a chance to kick field goals and the team fell to 3-8 after going 25-10 in his first three seasons.

Hoffmann was called on only nine times for field goals. He made five of them and was 14 of 15 on extra-points attempts for a total of 29 points.

That was good enough to lead the team in scoring but left him 28 points behind Siani on the career list. Hoffmann (180 points) also fell four points shy of passing running back Robert Haner (184) for second place.

"It would have been nice to be No. 1," said the 6-foot-1, 202-pound Hoffman. "But to be in the top five is not bad."

The team's poor performance on offense did provide Hoffmann with a lot of chances to punt, and he came through with a 39.2 average on 63 punts and had 34 downed inside the opponent's 20-yard line.

That kind of punting earned him a second-team All-Yankee Conference berth as a punter.

Now the NFL scouts are looking at Hoffmann more as a punter than place-kicker, which doesn't bother him.

"Things have worked out for the best," he said. "I always felt I had better potential as a punter. The first skill I tried as a kid was punting. Place-kicking came later."

If Hoffmann doesn't make it with an NFL team, the Canadian Football League is looking better to him every day as the prospects grow for Baltimore joining the league.

"It would be exciting to be kicking in Baltimore for a team named the Colts in the CFL," he said. "I could stay at home and be close to all the people I know."

Hoffman, a soccer-style kicker, has received a letter inviting him to the CFL Scout Camp in Tampa, Fla., on March 6, where he will work out before representatives of every CFL team and some NFL clubs.

Now it's on to the weight room for Hoffmann and more work during his final semester in college.

He wants to beat the odds one more time.

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