Picture day. The first day of a new season. A day for everyone to dress up and smile for the cameras. A day for coaches and reporters to talk amicably. A day to dream . . .
Rick Fasano, Maryland senior fullback, remembers past picture days. Yesterday was his fifth in Byrd Stadium. It was, unquestionably, his best. y
"I remember my first year sitting over in the corner of the field with all the other freshmen just hoping someone might come over and ask me a few questions. I remember hoping that someday I'd be somebody on this team.
"Freshmen, for the most part," are just a bunch of faces in the crowd. You feel more like a number sitting there watching the other guys get interviewed than a member of the team.
"Sophomore year, I was still hoping, still waiting my chance, waiting to be a part of all this. That season I was red-shirted so I felt even less a part of it that year.
"But then, my third year, I knew I was going to get a chance to play, to prove myself. For the first time on picture day I felt really excited, like I really wanted to get started.
"Last year, finally, I felt a part of it. People talked to me. I was somebody. I felt like I had arrived in the big time.
"But this year is the best. Today is the day for me. It's the start of something very important. The year I red-shirted I hated it. I wished I wasn't doing it. But if I hadn't red-shirted, I wouldn't be here today. I'd be out there in the real world. I'm glad I'm right here."
Rick Fasano, 5-foot-10, 214 pounds, a stocky, gregarious sort with curly black hair and a wispy moustache, was one of 17 Maryland players who stood in the heat yesterday and posed for pictures to start their fifth year of college football.
"I remember last year thinking, 'Well, this is it; my last picture day,'" said tight end Eric Sievrs, who was red-shireted after suffering a knee injury the second week of the season. "Now here I am again thinking, 'Well, this is it.' Only this time I know, one way or another , this is it."
For a football senior, picture day is both a beginning and an end. It is the first in a series of lasts.
"I don't feel twisted up about it or anything," Fasano said. "I think sometimes, 'Will this be my last year playing football" I know as I get towards the end of the season I'll be thinking about things like that. About endings.
"But right now I'm just excited. I want to get out and play football. This team has a chance to really do some things and I'm looking forward to being a part of it."
Last year, Fasano and Jeff Rodenberger split time at fullback, Fasano running the ball 39 times for 142 yards and catching four passes. Solid statistics, but very different from high school where he gained more than 3,200 yards. At Maryland, the fullbacks earn their way by blocking, not running.
"I've had to learn to take pleasure in throwing a good block," Fasano said.
"When Charlie (Wysocki) breaks a long run and the crowd cheers, I have to think they're cheering for all 11 of us because that's what it takes to spring him, all of us doing our jobs.
"Sometimes, though, I just want to take the ball and run with it. I want to go over to the coach and say 'Give me the ball; give me a shot at it.' But I know that isn't the way it is."
Coach Jerry Claiborne, who would probably give the ball to the tailback 30 times a game if he was in a body cast, says his fullbacks will carry the ball more this year.
"Based on the way Rick and Jeff ran last year, we have to give them a chance to run more this year," said Claiborne starting his ninth season at Maryland. "We expect both of them to pick up yards for us on the ground this year."
"I hope so," Fasano said with a sigh. "Seems like every year since I've been here has been the year I was going to run the ball more. I hope this is really the year."
Even if the fullbacks do see the ball more often, they still are going to spend a majority of their time blocking for Wysocki. Fasano knows that. He plans to work at it.
I'd like to take a shot at the pros, at least give it a try," said Fasano, a business major who will graduate in December. "I hear they need guys who can block. I know I can block. That's why I really want this to be a good year. It's my last one. My last big chance."
The year has not started well for the Terps as far as injuries go. Senior wingback Jan Carinci, the team's leading receiver last year with 30 catches, slipped lifting weights last week and hurt his right knee. He will undergo an arthroscopic examintion today to determine if surgery is necessary. At best, he is a doubtful starter for the Sept. 6 opener against Villanova. Carinci's personal deadline is Sept. 27, game four, at North Carolina, the first of three games against preseason Top 20 teams. "I'll let the other guys worry about Villanova for right now," Carinci said . . . Claiborne exhorted the press to spend time with his team yesterday. "Everytime I pick up the paper," he said, "it's Redskins Redskins, Redskins. Then there's some more Redskins and after that, some more Redskins."