This is the story of a college football player who went from third-string fullback to starting right linebacker in 10 days. A meteoric rise, to say the least.

He arrived on the Maryland campus one year ago. He was a good fullback. But it didn't take Dave D'Addio long to realize that he had to start at the bottom, that there were two more experienced players ahead of him.

His freshman year, he worked to learn the system, to learn the plays, the blocking assignments and the subtleties of college football. He learned well and played enough at fullback and on special teams to earn a letter.

"He showed us that he was a good athlete," Coach Jerry Claiborne said.

But when D'Addio returned to school this summer, he still was the No. 3 fullback behind Rick Fasano and Jeff Rodenberger. Both had far more experience than he did. It looked like a long fall.

But the second day back, starting linebacker Darnell Dailey tore a chest muscle lifting weights.

"We (the coaches) got together after Darnell got hurt, to talk about the situation," Claiborne said. "We had a problem. We started out with very little experience at linebacker and first thing lost our most experienced linebacker. We batted some names around and then (backfield coach) Tommy Groom mentioned D'Addio.

"That seemed right. He's big and strong, an athlete. I talked to Dave the next day."

The next day, a Saturday, D'Addio was walking out of an afternoon meeting when Clairborne called him aside.

"He asked me, considering that Darnell was hurt and out for a while (the season), how I would feel about moving over there," D'Addio said, "I wasn't certain how I felt about it but I just said, 'Okay by me.'"

When Clairborne makes a suggestion, his players generally perceive it for what it is: an order. D'Addio was no exception.

So, after a year of learning how to be a college fullback, D'Addio traded in his red offensive unit practice jersey for a white defensive unit jersey.

"I spent the first couple of days just trying to absorb as much of the playbook that I could." D'Addio said. "The guys on the defense were really good about the whole thing, really supportive. Even the linebackers who I was going to be competing with for playing time were real helpful."

D'Addio made the switch Aug. 16. Ten days later, the last of two-a-day practices, he was listed on the daily depth chart as the starting right linebacker.

"I'm really surprised," D'Addio said. "I never expected to move up this fast. I can still talk about my weaknesses a lot easier than my strengths.

"I'm still not good with my hands, still not good at fighting off blockers yet. I have a lot to learn."

"It takes time," Clairborne said. "Dave does have a lot to learn. But we're real pleased with the progress he's made. If he keeps coming the way he's been doing I think he's got an excellent chance to start."

Most cautious is the man who has the job of turning D'Addio into a linebacker, the defensive coordinator, John Devlin.

"You don't become a linebacker overnight," Devlin said. "Dave's done well so far, but I always reserve judgement until I see how a guy does lining up against the enemy.

"Linebacking is something that you've either got the knack for or you don't.

You can teach certain things but it's like tailback on offense. You either have the right instincts or you don't.

"You can't really tell about a guy's instincts until you see him under fire.

Dave's got a great attitude and there's no questioning that he's a football player, a good football player. We'll find out how good a linebacker he can be in about 10 days."

D'Addio, 6 feet 2, 218 pounds, was one of the stronger running backs the Terps had last season. He was also the best vertical jumper on the team. Clearly, he has mixed emotions bout moving to linebacker, a position he has not played since his junior year of high school, when he played both offense and defense. But right now, listed as a first teamer, he isn't complaining about anything.

"I liked playing fullback, but I'm getting to like linebacker," he said. "I think the more familiar I get with it, the more I'll enjoy the position.

"Right now, I'm a happy linebacker."

and the happy linebacker is turning out to be a pleasant surprise in what looked like an unhappy situation for Clairborne just 10 days ago.