Fred Allen, a reserve fullback for the No. 2-ranked Carroll football team, has not scored a touchdown nor played one complete series of downs this season. But the 5-foot-6, 150-pound senior is scoring heavy in another field - academics.
Allen carries a hefty 3.96 (out of a possible 4.0) grade-point average and is ranked No. 1 in his class.
"I've always liked football. That's why I went out for the team," said Allen, who also plays on the special teams. "I've always had a good average in school and since I've worked my way up to No. 1 in my class, I plan to stay there. I have no aspirations to be a pro football player. I plan to major in engineering."
Allen is one of a growing number of student-athletes who decided long ago that knowing Darwin's theory of evolution is asimportant as what the tight end does on a blast up the middle.
"Good grades will help you more in the long run," said West Springfield safety Mark Blake, one of 12 students in the senior class of 500 with a perfect 4.0 GPA. "I know I have the brains and I've been brought up to study. On our team, we have 11 guys with 3.0 or better. An intelligent football team will carry out assignments and react to situations better. They know what they're doing out there."
Before last night's regular-season finale against Lake Braddock, West Springfield carried a 9-0 record and had earned a berth in the Virginia AAA Northern Region Football playoffs.
"Even if I don't earn a football scholarship to the Air Force and Navy academies and Duke."
Allen, Blake and the other academically oriented players say playing football and remaining near the top of their classes isn't easy. Practicing 2 1&2 hours on the football field and studying another two each evening can make for a long day.
"Doing both can be a big problem. Sometimes you're dead after practice but you hit the books, anyway," said H. D. Woodson tackle Claybon Fields, who at 6-7, 273, is as much at home solving trigonometry problems as he is at mashing folks at the line of scrimmage. "I don't like getting Bs so I set my goal at straight As this year."
Most coaches agree that working with players who are academically oriented is a big plus.
"I know I can put a lot responsibility on Chris Nowicki (quarterback)," said De Matha coach Jerry Franks. "Chris is smart and he can make quick decisions out there."
So why doesn't Nowicki, who carries a 4.029 average including freshman college courses) call audibles or his own plays?
"No, we don't use checkoffs," laughed Franks. "He has a dumb coach to do that and call all the plays."
Nowicki doesn't mind a helping hand from Franks, who has coached the Stags to an 8-0 record and the No. 5 ranking in the area.
"Football is a thinking man's game, regardless of what people say," Nowicki said. "We do a lot of mental work to get ready for games and you have to be smart."
Once upon a time the "brainy" football players were considered oddballs. Not any more.
"I don't want to feel I have to know the answer to every question but I think you teammates respect you for what you know," said Carroll's Allen, who recalls the last C he received was in physical education in junior high school.
"Sometimes you catch it from your calssmates when you get an A," said Blake. "But basically they think a lot of you."
Fields, playing only his third year of football, said all of the teasing he received because he was an A student stopped when he reached the 6-foot, 200-pound plateau.
"I hit a boy in the mouth and sent him to the hospital," said Fields, whose GPA is 3.9. "No one bothered me anymore."
Phil denfield, the leading pass receiver for top-ranked Annandale, said getting good grades (a B in analytical geometry prevented him from being a 4.0 student) isn't that difficult.
"Pay attention and do the classwork," said the 6-5 senior. "You just learn to budget your time at night and keep in mind you have a goal to accomplish."