They don't have athletic scholarships, spring practice or a marching band. Their press clippings over the last 10 years wouldn't cover a large bulletin board. And their corps of loyal fans could fit comfortably into one Volkswagen bus.
Montgomery College's football team doesn't get a much hype or hoopla as an average high school team could expect. What they do have in Rockville, at 5-0, is the best record for a college team in the metropolitan area and a team disposition that is just this side of lawless.
"They're a nasty buch of guys," says Steve Wilson, Montgomery's first-year coach with slightly breathless admiration. "They're the kind you don't want mad at you."
You don't have to be mad to play football for Montgomery College, a two-year community school with its main campus in the county seat. But if you want to feel at home in a huddle with "Animal," "Fruitcake" and "Space Monkey" and, more important, if your goal is to catch a free ride to some four-year school, it helps to be at least a little reckless.
"To get out of here, you've got to get a scholarship," explains starting defensive end Bob Sheahin, who broke an ankle bone in last week's 8-7 win over Potomac State. Four days after the cast went on, Sheahin took it off so he'd be ready for today's game at Towson frosh. "If you don't play, you don't get scholarships."
Ask a dozen players why they came to Montgomery College and only one will mention books. Everybody else is matriculating in football. The report card that matters most to them will be filled out, they hope, by a scout for a four-year school.
"That's everybody's dream. The only reason 'm at school is to play football," says Dave Nails, who drove a tractor-trailer for a year after graduating from Damascus High School in 1978. His plans have been put on hold this year by a fractured vertebra.
It is the second time he has broken his back playing football. But not to worry, says Nails. He fractured his sixth vertebra in high school. This break is at the ninth.
Like Nails, some of the Montgomery squad returned to school after a taste of the working world. Sheahin worked in a restaurant for a year after graduating from High Point. Brad Fitzgerald, 24, was a tank commander in the Army.
But most of the players are leftovers from last year's suburban Maryland high school erop. A few, like Kevin Combs of Fairmont, Terry Conrad from Paint Branch and Keith DeNinno of Wheaton, were all-county players who were considered a few pounds light or a half-step slow by college scouts. The rest are journeymen.
"We're not that perfect. We're not even that good," says Wilson, who until this season had never coached above high school assistant level. "It may sound hokey, but these guys just don't quit."
Wilson spent seven years coaching high school teams, the last three years at Paint Branch. During that time he refined both his knowledge of football and his sense of humor.
"Coaching here has its rewards," says the 32-year-old Wilson, before giving his cramped office in the far corner of the school's athletic building a slow, mournful look. "They're not always on the surface. They've got me in the back of the building to keep me away from all the humans, I guess."
With an annual budget of only $7,000 and no scholarships to offer, Wilson did not have the pick of the litter from last year's high school seniors. But he did get the assistant coaches he wanted -- Jim Lavrusky, line coach at St. John's High School for the last seven years; Pat Callan, quarterback for the semipro Frederick Falcons for three years, and Len Santa Croce who, like the other assistant coaches, played football at the University of Maryland. Wilson played his football at Woodward Prep and the University of North Carolina.
The first thing the coaches did was initiate a new offense, the Delaware wing T. But after five games, they admit many of the players still haven't been properly introduced to it. Except for a season-opening 28-0 rout of the semipro Montgomery Cardinals, the team has won on defense. Last week's touchdown against Potomac State was scored on a blocked punt. The week before, Montgomery beat the James Madison University junior varsity, 3-0.
Despite the lack of offense, Montgomery last week was rated 10th in the country by the National Junior College Athletic Association, which numbers 100 teams in its organization.
"We don't look like the No. 10 team in any nation," protests Wilson, afraid that his carefully cultivated psychology of playing his team as underdogs will be spoiled by too nice a bone.
Wilson admits he has relied more on psychology this year than in all his high school seasons.
"My hold on the players is very weak here," says Wilson, who is used to a high school regimen of discipline and curfews. "I've had to adjust some of my ways. I'd be a fool to think they don't go out and smoke and drink and party on the weekends. They're American youth and anybody who doesn't think they've got some wild hair on them is crazy."
The only thing Wilson insists on is that players maintain their nasty reputation on the field. With most of them competing for the eye of scouts in the stands, he doesn't have to ask twice.
"I don't think there have been any scouts at our games yet, but who knows," said defensive halfback Bob Mitchell at a practice this week. If any scouts do appear, said Mitchell, it shouldn't be hard to spot them. There are few people in the stands to hide behind.
"There are people who go to this school who don't even know we've got a football team," said Mitchell, who graduated from Coolidge in 1978. "That tripped me out."
"I don't know why the stands aren't filled, but I was warned," Wilson said, watching his team warm up before practice. "The coach I took over from (Al Kouneski) told me that a few years ago he was 8-1 going into the final game. When he turned around there were just 10 people in the stands."
But Wilson says as long as his team keeps winning, the small-time trappings won't bother him.
"You know when Knute Rockne started coaching at Notre Dame he had a bunch of nuns playing in the band."