After the wait, Gentile has Hopkins on the go Running back makes mark after 2 seasons as backup, early-season ankle injury

October 30, 1998|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

Johns Hopkins running back Adam Gentile has shown he doesn't mind the hurry-up-and-wait that seems to have defined his career, athletically and otherwise.

Sometimes, the waiting has been voluntary. After getting on the fast track to a financial career by interning at Bloomberg Financial Services in summer 1997, the economics major opted for the slower pace of work as a lifeguard at a New Jersey resort last summer. "I just wanted to hang out," he said. "I figured that this would be the last summer to ever do anything like that."

Other times he must wait, like the two seasons he spent as backup to Hopkins career rushing leader Don Zajick. In the opening weeks of this season, an ankle injury slowed him.

But the Baywatch Blue Jay has made up for lost time, establishing himself as one of the top running backs in the Centennial Conference. He has also led Hopkins (6-1, 4-0) to its position as the conference's lone challenger to nationally ranked Western Maryland, whom it will face two weeks after tomorrow's game against Dickinson.

On Saturday against Bridgewater (Va.), Gentile may have run for more than his 75 yards if the game had been close enough to merit more than 14 carries. Instead, the junior barely played two quarters in a 43-19 win that ended his streak of four straight 100-yard games, including a school-record 218 yards while beating Muhlenberg on Oct. 16.

With 794 rushing yards already, he will probably pass the school's single-season rushing record of 931 yards -- shared by Oscar Garcia (1959) and Paul Ferreri (1991) -- an accomplishment he attributes to the gaping holes his blockers often create.

Gentile, 5 feet 8, 175 pounds, who played fullback at Middletown (N.J.) South High School, immediately made an impression as a freshman in 1996's preseason camp. Zajick had two years under his belt, however, so Gentile had to wait.

Still, Gentile played enough to finish that season as the team's second-leading rusher, with 281 yards and one touchdown. In the first game of 1997 against Washington & Lee, according to coach Jim Margraff, Gentile showed what he had other than the 144 rushing yards he collected that day. With his team down by a touchdown at halftime, the young running back launched into the most unlikely of speeches.

" 'I'm so excited, this is great,' " Margraff recalls Gentile saying. " 'I don't know how we're going to win it, but we're going to win it.' "

Then, the Blue Jays did just that, beating the Generals, 34-28. "There are times when you feel the way they're hitting you and you just know," Gentile said. "I was flying high because it was my first varsity start. Everyone was hanging their heads, and I just said, 'Let's have fun.' "

Alternating in three-carry spurts with Zajick, Gentile rushed for 675 yards that season, averaging one touchdown per game as the Blue Jays went 7-3.

The arrangement worked for Gentile, who said he would run extra hard on every third carry, knowing that he would get rest immediately afterward. "Of course," he said, "when [Zajick] graduated, I was ready to carry the load."

Instead, he suffered a high ankle sprain during preseason camp. Margraff limited Gentile's carries early in the season, but might have used him more in a 36-22 loss to King's Point on Sept. 26. Gentile told the coaches he was ready, but he hadn't looked sharp in practice that week, and didn't get into the game until late, when he broke loose for a 67-yard touchdown run.

"After that, we knew he was ready," said Margraff, thankful for the timing with Dickinson, Franklin & Marshall and Western Maryland coming up to end the season. "If we're going to lose him at anytime, we're glad it was the first three weeks because we're really going to need him these next three games."

Pub Date: 10/30/98

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