Punter Dale Castro vividly recalls his first venture onto Maryland's practice field.
"They kicked me off," said Castro.
That was last year and he was a nonscholarship student, hopeful of making the team. He brought with him a sack of 10 old footballs and wanted to practice punting and kicking when there was no one on the field.
"They said the field was only for players," said Castro. "I said, 'I'm gonna make this team.'"
Nonetheless, he was ushered away. His stubborness brought him back as a player. He made the team as a walk-on last year, backing up senior Mike Sochko. This year he decided he would not play unless he had a scholarship. He got one on the first day of summer workouts.
"I wouldn't have played again as a walkon. It's a matter of pride," said Castro. "I really didn't know what I was going to do this year. I had arranged to get an apartment."
Castro also had an offer to sign with the Minnesota Twin's baseball organization as a pitcher. But he knew what he wanted, and Minnesota wasn't offering the right things.
"Baseball tries to get you for nothing," said Castro. "They wanted me to play winter ball. They want to hear that you're not interested in school, only baseball.
"They offered me a bonus of $10,000 plus $1,000 a semester to go to school. I said I wanted to sign for a college education. I wanted $20,000.
Castro, now 18, has always been a youngster who knew what he wanted. A three-sport athlete at Southern High in Shady Side, Md., Castro turned down Clemson's offer of a baseball scholarship and went to Maryland on his own.
"My parents got a little mad, because no one turns down a Clemson baseball scholarship," said Castro. "I didn't want to go that far from home. My father used to bring me here for football and basketball games and I just liked the whole thing. The only school I felt comfortable with was Maryland.
"I came here and watched Sochko and (John Papuchis punting one day at practice. I told myself, 'I can do the same or better. It would be a waste if I didn't go out."
At first it seemed that Castro was not destined to be a Maryland football player. After being kicked off the football field, he managed to practice well enough at the soccer field. But the first day he came to pick up football equipment, he said the manager told him, "You're going to get killed out there."
Then, after passing the onfield test, he couldn't pass the physical. He had had mononucleosis, and he failed the physical three times. He figured it might help to take iron pills, so he did. An entire bottle of them in one day.
"I guess there were about 70 pills," said Castro. "The doctor took my blood and he said, 'You're really improving.'"
Castro could have played baseball at Maryland, but he decided to go all out for football in order to get a full scholarship.
"I plan on playing football and finishing school. I couldn't be happier," said Castro, who debuted in Maryland's opening 31-7 victory last Saturday, punting four times for an average of 36.5 yards.
"But I have this problem. I love baseball. Whatever season comes around, that's the sport I like most. What's messed me up is being 18 and still loving both of them."
Coach Jerry Claiborne was as surprised as anyone at how poorly Tulane played against Maryland Saturday.
Said Claiborne: "I thought Tulane would be better than they appeared to be on that day. I thought they would give us a good football game but as I watched them warm up I felt pretty good. I don't think they were ready to play."
Starting wingback Dean Richards was still nursing a swollen ankle and didn't play Saturday, but Claiborne said he could have played if the Terps had gotten in trouble and should start Saturday night at Louisville . . . Second-string linebacker Peter Haley is lost for the season, Claiborne said, with a cracked vertebra in his neck. Haley red-shirted last season because he transferred from Tennessee, so the year will be wasted for him. The Washington Post erroneously reported in Monday's editions that Haley, a walkon, was about to sign scholarship papers. First-string quick tackle Jim Ulam ran a little bit in practice on his strained knee but is doubtful for Louisville after missing the Tulane game . . .