Season previews do not dwell on second-stringers. They pay homage to blue-chippers, players who are Heisman shoo-ins in September and first-round draft picks in May.
Mike Lishack was not one of those. People just don't sit around asking, "Hey, whatever ever happened to Mike Lishack," a second-string guard, who was graduated from the University of Maryland in 1972.
What happened to Lishack is that he was named the new head coach at Gallaudet College, the only liberal arts college for the deaf in the United States. His last job was as a salesman for the Campbell's Soup Company.
He is 29 and is delighted to be back in football.
Whether the Gallaudet players will be delighted with a head coach who says he knows sign language "about 30 percent as well as I should" remains to be seen.
Although he worked as a part-time assistant at Gallaudet in 1976 and 1977, this is Lishack's first full-time coaching job. Most of his experience was as a player.
He says he "played his share" at Maryland, a gentle way of saying he did not start. Sure, he was disappointed; who isn't?
"College football," he says, "is a dirty game. You've got a bunch of people with very large egos and sometimes that's tough to deal with. There are guys at USC and Penn State (who don't play) who have egos as big as the guys you do see."
In 1972, Lishack graduated from the second-string to anonymity, with a degree of personal confusion."All your life you're a big shot. You've got your name in the newspaper and the programs. Then, all of a sudden, you're being told you can't do this thing you've been doing for 10 to 15 years."
"Some handle it better than others," he said. "I guess maybe I didn't handle it as well as some because I still had the urge to play."
He took a job as a recreational therapist in a mental institution near his home outside Pittsburg but quit after a year.
He played one season of semipro football for the Pittsburg Ironmen, earning $50 to $100 a game, and then signed a free-agent contract with the Jacksonville Express of the now derailed World Football League.
Lishack was in camp two or three months before he was cut. "They told me it was my size," he said. "It upset me because I was lifting and I was up to about 245. I thought I was doing well. I proved to myself that I was right in there with the big boys."
Although Lishack now feels more at ease with himself, he is not necessarily going to have an easy time at Gallaudet.
Gallaudet is Lishack's big break, but it is not the big time.
There are no scholarships. Assistant Coach Dave Elam has been known to recruit players by "combing the campus for the biggest guys and inviting them to practice."
The team, which was 3-5 last year, had its last winning season in 1930. Still, it has not been without its successes. Gallaudet football has helped do away with some of the unfortunate stereo-types about hearing-impaired people.
It also invented the huddle in the 1890s when a Gallaudet quarterback named Paul Hubbard discovered that the opposition was quite literally stealing his signs on the line of scrimmage.
Many of the handicaps hearing-impaired players encounter on the football field -- they can not call audibles; they have to rely on vibrations given off by a bass drum to call signals; they may have balance problems due to difficulties with the inner ear -- can be overcome with practice.
But, as far as some of the players are concerned, a head coach who is not fluent in sign language is himself handicapped.
"The kids are outspoken here," said Elam, one of three assistant coaches. "They will not fail to call you dumb, or ignorant. They feel if you are working in this capacity you should be able to sign."
Joe Fitch, the athletic director, who says Lishack was his first choice to repalce former Coach Paul Smiley does not expect communication to be a problem Not everyone agrees.
"People are saying to me, you don't sign, you're not going to be successful and the kids won't like you," said Lishack, who was hired on Aug. 8, a little more than a month before the season opener against UDC, said, "I don't have time to take a crash course in signing. But I'll be darned if I'm going to let this stop me.
"I'm more than willing to learn. Also I feel I know football. If they'll have patience with me, it will work out and we'll have a good season."
John Carnaggio, an offensive lineman, and one of 43 members of the 1978 team returning this season, said "There's no time to have patience with someone who can't sign. We have to start practice this week."
He will be glad to know that his new coach was home practicing his signs last week.