Players pared quickly at CFL Colts' tryouts

March 21, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

Field of dreams, it wasn't.

For the vast majority in a throng of 450 wanna-be Baltimore CFL Colts, Homewood Field at Johns Hopkins University was more like Back to the Future yesterday. A 9-to-5 future in the real world.

There may have been more accountants at Homewood than pro football players. And there probably weren't a lot of accountants.

When the Colts' first open tryout was history, Jim Popp, the team's director of player personnel, sent 17 players into the night with the dream still alive, but barely. Send film, he said, and we'll get back to you. No promises, no contracts. Just a maybe.

There were a few recognizable names among the aspirants, though:

* J. T. Smith, former Pro Bowl receiver with the St. Louis/Phoenix Cardinals, who is attempting a comeback four years after his 13-season NFL career was derailed by a fractured right fibula.

* Wide receiver Kelvin Edwards, attempting to revive a career that included stints with the Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

* Quarterback Ron Meehan, a former Towson State standout who was cut by the NFL's Baltimore Colts in 1982, looking for his break after 10 years in the semi-pro leagues.

* Running back Gerry Collins of Penn State, considered the best at his position.

Smith, Edwards and Collins were among the 17 who will get further consideration. Meehan, 35, will not, although Popp called him the "second-best quarterback" yesterday.

The best quarterback was Brad Parpen of Villanova, who broke his collarbone in two places last fall, then returned to finish the season at "60 percent." Parpen, from Long Island, threw extremely well, but is in no hurry to sign. He said he wants to gauge NFL interest first.

Few in the group knew who Smith was, or that he had 545 catches for 6,974 yards and 35 touchdowns in a distinguished NFL career. One struggling quarterback dismissed Smith after he lost a ball in the sun. "The guy can't play," the quarterback said, unaware.

Smith stood above the crowd of receivers with his precise route-running. He caught one deep pass. Why did he travel from his Austin, Texas, home to run with the wanna-bes?

"Because it's time to start over," Smith said. "It's been a couple of years, and it's still in my mind that I want to play."

But he is 38, and it is unlikely the Colts will offer him a contract. It didn't help that they thought he was 34. Smith noted a similar experience a few years ago when he tried out for baseball's Seattle Mariners. Once the Mariners found out his age, the tryout was over.

Popp was noncommittal on Smith: "Some things he did today, he looked stiff, maybe because of the leg injury. He was better running at the slot when he was in motion than he was off the line. But you could tell what he'd done in the past helped him out here today."

Smith was one of two former NFL receivers invited to the workout. The other, former Washington Redskin Charlie Brown, was a no-show.

What the Colts got out of this six-hour exercise was some public relations and at least $11,250 in registration fees at $25 a head.

Of those who might make it to training camp next summer, most were like defensive back Don Caparotti or linebacker Demetrius Douglas.

Caparotti, a native of Damascus, Md., now living in Newport Beach, Calif., came on invitation. He played in college at Massachusetts and spent two weeks in camp with the British Columbia Lions of the CFL.

"I've worked out for 24 NFL teams since my senior season," he said.

Douglas, meanwhile, spent two years with the Calgary Stampeders after a college career at Georgia. Like Caparotti, he stood out at his position.

Other locals attending included former Maryland place-kicker Dan DeArmas, punter Kirk Maggio of Calvert Hall and UCLA, and former Navy linebacker Javier Zuluaga.

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