[TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] Take Gary Blazek, 17, and his brother Mark, 12. They travel from Centreville, Va., looking for bottles. Leonard Dunkin, a Maryland alumnus, looks for aluminum beer cans "for the gasoline money it takes to get to the games." And Frank Saglimveni, 14, searches exclusively for hats.
The scavengers faithfully return for every home football game. But they do not come for the football. Armed with plastic bags, knapsacks and cardboard boxes, they arrive near the end of the games for a different kind of sport: searching section by section, under every seat and bleacher, for things left behind by thousands of departed fans.
They offer a variety of reasons for the hobby and say they perform a useful function: helping to clean up the mess after games.
Over the years, the Blazek brothers have taken home boxes of bottles -- empty and full ones. Looking into the latest addition to his collection, Gary Blazek says confidently, "Some day, they'll stop making these and they'll be worth something. We have some bottles at home with a special coating and labels with old photos that could be worth $100."
He says he keeps one of the filled bottles on his dresser, waiting until he is old enough to drink what's in it: Southern Comfort whiskey.
Stadium manager Bob Stumpff said the university prohibits carrying beer and liquor into the stadium, but that fans can and often do easily conceal cans and bottles in pockets and bags.
Two other bottle collectors at the stadium, Charles Payne, 14, and David Hall, 15, said they planned to use the bottles to make an elaborate pyramid for an art project.
Dunkin, the aluminum beer can collector, said he began his scavenging as a student at Maryland; he worked at the stadium, cleaning up after games. "People leave their shirts and everything else. I have found cameras, keys and a wallet with some guy's tuition money in it. Of course, I turned them all into a lost and found desk."
A middle-aged couple were at a recent game gathering aluminum cans for a recycling drive at a neighbor's church. Looking intently down a row of seats, the man remembered that he lost his wedding ring at the stadium years ago. Two other couples from Mount Airy and Damascus were gathering cans to increase their savings for a cruise to Mexico.
Meanwhile, college students representng sororities, fraternities and dormitories participate in another recycling campaign: The "Miller Drive." Members of Sigma Kappa sorority place only beer cans from the Miller Brewing Co. in their plastic bags. The organization that gets the most points by December receives $1,500.
If the weather is good, small groups of scavengers patrol underneath bleachers for programs or ticket stubs, many of which have coupons for restaurant discounts.
Clothing is often among the rubble left by the football crowd. Saglimveni scavenges only for hats and says he finds them once in a while. Others have found sports equipment, umbrellas, radios, money, cigars, you name it.
Some of the scavengers, however, are merely looking for something to eat. Unsold concession items are sometimes left outside each stand at the end of the games. They don't stay there long. Gangs of boys roam from stand to stand, filling boxes with watery Cokes or overcooked hot dogs.
But scavenging has its drawbacks, as John Siegenthaler, 15, found out. He has retired after his rookie year last year as a self-proclaimed scavenger. Although he found an AM/FM radio with a cassette player, $3 and cigars, he also lost something: his Schwinn Scrambler bicycle, which was stolen. "I've done this so many times and never expected this to happen. My mother said, 'You should never have gone to the Maryland game!' She's the one who worked to get the $200 to buy it." His friend, Steve Wilt, had the master link broken on the chain of his Mongoose bicycle.
Campus policeman C.H. Mooney provided little solace for John. "Bicycle stealers like those Scramblers. Sometimes there are three of them stolen in one week."
So far, stadium officials have taken no action to prevent scavenging. A good percentage of personal valuables do end up with the campus police, police personnel say.
Meanwhile, the scavengers say they offer a worthwhile service: They help clean the stadium and make use of items that would be discarded anyway.
Stadium manager Stumpff agrees. "They help us get the place cleaned up a little quicker, especially by removing most of the aluminum cans and bottles."
Some fans, however, do not agree. A man who returned to the stadium to look for a gold ring his wife lost grumbled, pointing at a group of scavengers, "I guess I'm too late. Those guys probably snatched it up right away."
The scavengers claim there's a little bit of scavenger in everyone. Pondering that thought, a skeptical reporter and photographer left the stadium. The photographer glanced down at his feet. Pinned under his right foot was a windblown $5 bill.