It is week three of Jan Carinci's final season of college football and he has yet to catch a pass. And, although he was Maryland's leading receiver a year ago, he entered practice yesterday listed as second team on the depth chart.
The main reason is simple: lifting weights a few days prior to summer practice, Carinci suffered a slight cartilage tear in his right knee. He missed all of preseason, sat out the Villanova game and finally came back to play against Vanderbilt. Yesterday, after he had worked out two days on AstroTurf, the knee swelled again.
Depressing. Many seniors in Carinci's situation would complain about bad luck and the unfair nature of the game.
Jan Carinci, yesterday: "I know a lot of guys worry as seniors that if their stats aren't great, the pros won't notice them. My attitude is if they haven't noticed me by now, catching a million passes or zero passes won't make much difference this year. So I'm not concerned about it.
"What I am concerned about is a lot simpler than that. When I got here in 1977 Maryland had won ACC championships in 1974, 1975 and 1976. My class hasn't won one yet. This is my last chance. I want to go out of here with a ring on my finger. That's what I care about this year."
Jan Carinci is not your average college football player. For one thing, he is likely to graduate in four years. That is as rare as a Maryland pass on first down.
More rare, perhaps unique, is the story of how Carinci came to be a Maryland undergraduate. He was born in London, the eldest son of a native Italian who had emigrated to England at age 18 and of a German who had moved to England with her parents at age 7 following the war.
When Jan was 7, his parents moved to Toronto. "My father just felt that life in North America was probably completely different than it was in England. He knew the opportunity to move up by working hard would be there." e
Carlo Carinci was right. He found a job as a welder and eventually worked his way up to plant supervisor.
His oldest son was going to be like other Canadian kids and play hockey. At age 9 his parents bought him hockey equipment and he was ready to begin his career. But the summer before Carinci launched his hockey career, a friend talked him into trying out for a 90-pound-and-under football team.
He became an outstanding player. By the time he reached high school, Carinci was playing both ways for his city league team -- coached by Bill Jukes -- and his high school team.
"When I was in ninth grade Jukes started telling me the American colleges would be coming after me, that I would be able to wallpaper my walls with letters. The idea appealed to me although it wasn't a dream like it is with so many American kids."
Because he was an honor student, Carinci was pursued by several Ivy League schools. Maryland, represented by Tom Groom, the running back coach, was also interested, and so was Florida State.
But by May of Carinci's senior year the decision had boiled down to two: Maryland or the CFL Argonauts.
"One day I walked into a little room and the Argonauts threw open a suitcase full of money and said, 'Sign now and this is yours.' Fortunately my coach had warned me not to react, no matter what, so I stayed calm.
"But I was pretty impressed with mayself for a few days. I walked around school thinking I was big time; I was going to be an Argonaut straight out of high school."
But before Carinci was swept away by the dreams being waved under his nose, his father and coach intervened. They pointed out that an injury would leave him without football and without a college scholarship. And, while the deal called for the Argonauts to put him through the University of Toronto, it was not a no-cut or no-trade deal. "I could be gone or playing somewhere 3,000 miles away in a minute," Carinci said.
In the end, Carinci and his father visited Maryland. Groom, a cagey recruiter, took the father to Annapolis. There, late at night in a pizza place, they ran into a man from Carlo Carinci's hometown in Italy. "I don't know whether it was coincidence or not," Jan said, "but after that my dad thought Maryland was the place."
And so Carinci walked away from the money and came to Maryland. "I've learned a lot here," he said. "Just being exposed to a place wth 35,000 people is an experience."
Freshman year was rocky. Little playing time. A tough adjustment academically. At times he was ready to go home. But his father talked him out of it.
Carinci won't say it, but being a receiver in a run-dominated attack has been frustrating at times. He has compensated by becoming one of the team's best blockers. "You try and get the satisfaction out of hitting someone that you are missing by not catching passes," he said. "I don't like blocking more than pass catching, but I'm glad I can do it well."
Carinci blocks and catches (when given the chance) so well that he can probably name his price in Toronto next year. Still, he may opt to take a shot at the NFL. "I probably won't get drafted but there's been enough interest shown that I think I'd get a shot as a free agent," he said. "Given that shot I think I could make it because I would outwork people.
"Still, I've sort of had this dream in my mind for a long time. It has the hometown boy going back to Toronto, playing for eight or 10 years, buying a restaurant and having his father run it."
That is not the average player's dream. The average football player's dream involves bucks, bucks and more bucks.
But then, Jan Carinci has never been average.