Kalapinski is driven to reverse Terps' run Maryland: Sophomore fullback Matt Kalapinski is having a breakthrough season, but he won't be content until he helps the 2-7 Terps become a winning team.

November 13, 1998|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- When Maryland fullback Matt Kalapinski suddenly broke free into the North Carolina secondary for a long gainer Saturday, he reached back for every ounce of athletic ability in his body in hopes of outrunning linebacker Sedrick Hodge to the goal line.

Kalapinski just didn't have the speed to prevent Hodge from catching him from behind at the North Carolina 49-yard line, ending the promising run at 32 yards.

It was a disappointing turn of events for the 6-foot-1, 225-pound sophomore who was still wondering three days later what it would have been like to go 81 yards for a touchdown and have the first 100-yard rushing day of his college career.

But Kalapinski said he won't replay the missed long touchdown opportunity as often as he does each loss for the 2-7 Terps, who will meet 4-5 Duke on the road tomorrow at noon.

"Sometimes, I just don't get it," he said. "I come off the field so confused. I don't know what to say. I just seem so dumbfounded. What happened? Why didn't we win that game? That's all I'm asking myself. I know we're a good enough team to beat these other teams. It's weird. I can't put a finger on it. It upsets me."

When the 19 year-old product of Marshfield, Mass., gives up his search for answers to the losing, he finds solace in the fact he has two more years to help produce different endings for Maryland on Saturday afternoons.

And Kalapinski draws a lot of strength for his future football career from his late grandfather, Larry Heron.

"He was a great man," said Kalapinski. "He knew everything about sports. He's my hero. He could have played pro football and baseball but first his father got sick and then he went to World War II and got blinded. He had 35 major surgeries on his face. He had artificial ears, mouth and nose."

Kalapinski said Heron fought through all those operations to hold down a job, follow his grandson's youth football and baseball exploits and lived to be 77.

"He just died four years ago," said the hard-running Kalapinski. "He had football scholarship offers to Notre Dame, Providence, Boston College and Holy Cross. In baseball, he tried out for the Boston Braves and St. Louis Cardinals. His father got sick when he tried out for the Braves."

Kalapinski said his grandfather talked more to him about baseball than football.

"It's disappointing not to have him here to see me play at Maryland, but he realized I was going to be good at both sports," Kalapinski said.

Kalapinski earned three varsity high school letters in football and baseball and plans to continue pursuing baseball as a center fielder in addition to football.

"I don't want to give baseball up because if football doesn't follow through, it's a possibility I could play pro baseball," he said. "I want to play baseball this summer and have thought about playing baseball for Maryland."

Most major Division I-A football schools believed that Kalapinski was too small at 205 pounds in high school to play fullback in college, but he is starting in his second season and having a breakthrough year.

The quiet but driven youngster is averaging 5.4 yards a carry on 68 rushes for 366 yards and three touchdowns and he has teamed with sophomore tailback LaMont Jordan to form one of the most effective rushing backfields in the nation.

Jordan is also averaging 5.4 yards a carry and is becoming more of a long distance threat each week. He averages 90.8 yards a game and is second in the Atlantic Coast Conference in rushing.

Jordan is basically Mr. Outside and Kalapinski is Mr. Inside for the Terps. Jordan is the flashy one and Kalapinski is more plain.

"I don't think I can compare myself with LaMont," said Kalapinski. "He's just an unbelievable running back. He does a lot of things that amaze me. We have a different style. He likes to run around people more and I kind of like to get those tough yards, trying to bust through people."

Maryland coach Ron Vanderlinden said, "We've done a good job of finding ways to keep Matt involved in the offense. The combination of the quick-hitting plays with Matt takes advantage of some of the over-pursuit of LaMont. We'd also like to get Matt the ball more often in passing situations."

When Kalapinski sifts through all the adversity of 1998, there are two things that stand out for him.

"I've been getting the ball a lot more than I expected and getting more playing time," said the youngster, who had only three carries for 5 yards and two catches for 24 yards as a freshman.

Pub Date: 11/13/98

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