`Do it right' epitomizes Terpening's coaching

November 02, 2005|By GREGORY KANE

Returning to Baltimore City College for the first time in decades, Bob Terpening couldn't remember the day that Art Thompson bit Tony Fulton in wrestling practice.

"I guess I reacted calmly," Terpening said, flashing a smile that appeared just a little mischievous.

Terpening - who coached football, wrestling and track for City College from the mid-1960s until the early 1970s and who was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame on Friday - knew he had just made an inside joke only his former charges in those several sports would understand. Terpening was to calm what professional wrestler George "The Animal" Steele was to perfect diction.

But as I recall the incident, Terpening didn't go ballistic. Neither did Fulton, who would go on to become a state delegate before he left us way too soon earlier this year. Some guys would have lost their cool and started a fight after being bitten, but not Fulton. That wasn't his way.

"Coach Terpening, he bit me!" Fulton shouted about Thompson's either inadvertent or intentional munching. Terpening seemed stunned, as did the wrestlers in the room.

Art Thompson bit Tony Fulton? Where'd Thompson think he was - in what was then known as the Worldwide Wrestling Federation?

Perhaps Terpening can be forgiven for not remembering the incident. He has his mind on other matters these days, such as his duties as executive vice president of the Indianapolis Colts.

You may remember the Colts. They used to play here. Then some guy with the last name of Irsay - and his little son, too - sneaked out of town one winter night and relocated our beloved Hosses to Hoosierland.

The Irsays are experts only at stealing football teams. So the emergence of the Indy Colts as perhaps the best team in the National Football League this year is because they have guys such as Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison on offense.

And after realizing the club's defense was suspect, Colts officials went out and fetched themselves a bevy of speedy, ornery hombres to smack down offensive opponents. The result is a 7-0 record (versus our beloved Ravens' 2-5), first place in the American Football Conference's Southern Division and a virtual lock for a playoff berth.

You have to figure Terpening had some hand in shaping the current Colts roster. He developed his eye for football talent early in his days at City College, which explains why he cut me from the squad after the first day of tryouts. (Hey, there were 4,000 students in the school, all guys. A good few hundred tried out for football. Somebody had to go the first day.)

I had better luck with the junior varsity wrestling squad. Mind you, I had no more physical talent for wrestling than for football. But there were fewer guys trying out for the wrestling team. And the guys who did have a talent for the sport needed somebody to bang around.

Terpening tolerated my presence on the team for a season, trying his best to drill wrestling fundamentals into me. That probably made him the bravest coach in the world.

It was courage akin to that of heavyweight boxer Chuck Wepner's manager, who would send his game but pugilistically challenged charge out to face some awful carnage. (Think of the time Sonny Liston dismantled Wepner. The ref had to stop the fight because Wepner wouldn't quit. "Is Wepner the bravest man in the world?" a reporter asked Liston. "No," Liston answered. "But his manager is.")

It was Terpening's eye for talent - and the lack of it - that led the Colts to offer him a job in 1970. A part-time scouting job for the New England Patriots followed. He returned to the Colts in 1977, first as a scout and then as director of player personnel.

The club made him assistant general manager in 1984 and vice president in 1997. For the past five years Terpening has been the executive vice president. That's the same time frame in which the Colts have contended annually for either division or conference titles. Some of Terpening's old players might suggest that's no coincidence.

"Do it right," was the simple advice Terpening gave to City College students gathered at the Hall of Fame assembly Friday. Terpening has been doing it right for years.

Terpening "did it right" when he coached City College to victory in the last game the Knights won before that long, 17-year drought of no City victories in the City-Poly game. The year was 1969. City, underdog to a Poly team poised to win a Maryland Scholastic Association championship, won 12-6.

"I knew we could win if we ran off tackle," a jubilant Terpening told reporters after the game. The win was so much sweeter because it helped Terpening's old mentor, Loyola coach Joe Brune, win the MSA A conference title.

"Do it right." It seems like the 2005 Indy Colts have received that message. Too bad Bob Terpening isn't executive vice president of the 2005 Ravens.

greg.kane@baltsun.com

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