John Papuchis remembers the day he lost his Maryland basketball scholarship. It was the first day of practice, and he decided he had better things to do than swing a bet at a ball. He tried out for the football team that day.
"I lost my scholarship immediately," said Papuchis, who, three years later, is competing for the Terrapins' punting job, still a walk-on.
"I had played baseball all summer. I was sick of it. I came to try out for the football team, and the next day I punted in a JV game."
A quarterback and kicker at Einstein High in Silver Spring, Papuchis received football offers from Virginia, Delaware and New Hampshire. But he took the baseball offer from Maryland.
"At the time I accepted the baseball scholarship, I was a little tired of football," said Papuchis, who passed for more than 1,000 yards in high school, most often to a tight end named Mike Owens - the UVA basketball player. "We didn't have much of a team. We went 3-7 and I took a real beating. I need to be in the tub all night."
Papuchis has no regrets at how things turned out, other than that he and his parents have had to pay for his education.
"I love it out here. I've been to two bowl games," said Papuchis, a junior who has redshirted one year.
Papuchis said he thinks of himself as "just like a scholarship player except I don't get any money.
"I feel I'm a part of the team. My goal is to play."
Papuchis will do that this year, at least for a few moments, as the holder on extra-point attempts. "I love it. I practiced it all summer," he said. "My brother threw me the ball and I set it up on the carpet."
"It was too hot outside," said Papuchis. "But people don't realize you have to practice that stuff. We did it in the basement."
As for the punting job left open by the departure of Mike Sochko, Papuchis feels that Dale Castro has outperformed him so far. "Dale is a great punter," said Papuchis. "He can punt the ball 70 yards. But I think I'm good, too."
Papuchis averaged 48 yards a punt in high school. He remembers himself as a good high school quarterback, but said, "If you stick me out there in a college game, you're gonna lose. These guys are too big for me."
Better to be a kicker?
"Yeah," said Papuchis. "We have a pretty nice time."