As a high school freshman in Ocean Gate, N.J., Steve Kremer was assigned the role of center because he was one of the bigger boys trying out for the football team. Now a Naval Academy senior, Kremer still is s center, but at 6 feet and 213 pounds he is strictly the runt of the line.
Asked whether he had ever played opposite a smaller man in college, Kremer said, "Besides our won people, I don't elieve so. We go over the scouting reports on all our opponents and even the lineackers are usually in the 220s or 230s, not to mention the defensive linemen."
Nevertheless, Kremer is able to use his quickness to good effect. He studies films closely to find an opponent's weakness, then implements speed and angles to get the job done. Of course, if a guy weighing 260 is there rocking helmet to helmet, Kremer is not always able to accomplish much.
"I use my quickness to get into a block and move a guy," Kremer said. "I'm best against people who move. I use their movement and direct it to where I want to go. If a guy weighs 260 and just sits there, then I've got problems.
"Notre Dame gave me the most trouble last year. (Mike) Calhoun (6-5, 237) and (Jeff) Weston (6-4, 258) just stood up on the line and they weren't easy to move."
Some others were more easily handled and it is from such success that Kremer derives the lineman's limited satisfaction from banging heads each Saturday.
"Mainly what I get out of it is putting my size against a bigger opponent and beating him," Kremer said. "If I can beat a guy 40 pounds heavier, and beat him consistently, I get a lot of personal satisfaction out of it."
Blocking onehanded against a giant nose guard is not, however, Kremer's idea of the ultimate in football. He would rather be a fullback, or at worst a guard.
"I always wanted to play fullback," Kremer said. "Before I started playing in high school, and got stuck on the line with the other big guys, I was good at running in games we used to have on the beach. I had good size and I was pretty quick and when I'd get sweaty, I could really slip tackles with ease."
His high-school career, in New Jersey and Florida, was passed as offensive center and guard, defensive end, linebacker and nose tackle. Contacted by Navy's football staff only as a courtesy - he was a year behind high school teammate Bob DeStafney, recently graduated Navy linebacker - Kremer nevertheless battled his way into the No. 2 center post as a sophomore. Then, in a twist he became a starting guard, a spot he held until he was shifted back to center in practice last spring.
"I twisted my knee and when I came back, the guy who'd moved up to No. 2 got better ratings, so they put me at guard," Kremer said. "I liked it after I learned it. It's a lot easier to block at guard than center.
"At center, you're opposite a nose guard who's crowding the ball, as close as he can be to offside, and you can't get any momentum going. At guard, the guy usually isn't lined head up and you can get a good angle. Even if he is head up, he's farther off the ball.
"The center also has disadvantage because one arm is with the ball going up. The nose guard concentrates on the ball and the minute he sees the ball move, he comes.You don't have time to get both arms ready to use in a blocking technique."
Kremer also centers for punts and placekicks, something he continued to so refined the placekick snap that he has reduced from three-tenths of a second to 25-hundredths the time needed to reach the holder.
Wild snaps are usually the only thing for which centers are remembered, so Kremer may complete his career in anonymity. He can't remember a bad snap that cost his team a game. He can remember a lot of attempts at intimidation, however.
"Not so much here, but in high school guys were always yelling that they'd knock my head off." Kremer said. "You sort of get used to it.
"Last year, in the last minute of the Air Force game, Bob (Tata) was about to kick the winning field goal and they called time. I was sweaty, so I went up to the ref and asked to use his towel. An Air Force guy saw me and said something like, 'Its' all on your shoulders. Don't mess up.'
"This is my eighth year of long snapping, so I'm not worried about messing up. That may knock your head off after you snap it, but that's your job. You have to get that ball back there."
Possessor of a 3.13 scholastic average with plans for a career in nuclear power, Kremer has managed to keep his head on his shoulders. He is sorry to think his football career will soon be ending, but he will not miss some of those demanding practice sessions.
"Practice is a lot of work, particularly for the offensive line," Kremer said. "The really important thing to me is playing in the game itself. I enjoy the game. Being here, to play football you have to enjoy it. In a normal college, if you give up football, you're giving up your scholarship. If you don't enjoy it here, nothing keeps you."