For starters, junior college is a two-year deal. Sophomores are upperclassmen, freshmen are total strangers and there is no time for bad football practices.
That's why Steve Wilson, who coaches the upperclassmen and strangers of Montgomery College-Rockville, was in a compressed rage yesterday afternoon, alternately fighting and turning practice into a romper room.
"The coach is in his office, but he won't talk," said a lineman in the locker room.
In Wilson's office, which comfortably accommodates less than one adult, the walls were closing in.
Wilson: "You pull strings to get books for them, you get them places to live, you help them get scholarships and they give me a practice like that. Gets me mad. If I was five years younger, I'd . . ."
The coaches at Notre Dame probably have days like this. But Montgomery College-Rockville, sometimes dubbed "Harvard on the Pike," is not Notre Dame. It's not Harvard either. It's trying to be both.
For football players, the school has been seen as a gas station, a place to fill up on cake courses to appear academically oriented and play good football and pray for a scholarship offer to a four-year college-Rockville is not the big time; it's the meantime. In short, the football team has a frivolous reputation.
Some of the players may have been frivolous, but never me," Wilson said. "I'm here to put together a winning football team."
Wilson has a winning football team, 7-2 last year and a top-20 ranking among junior colleges. This year it has lost just once. It has been this winning that is changing the team's reputation. They're getting recognition, some fans and a sudden influx of interest from talented Washington Interhigh players. All that is making the program worth getting excited -- or incensed -- about.
Winning has changed things. It's opened the door for Wilson to sell the school via its main selling points, instead of the school serving as a haven for the football-starved.
"This is one of the top-rated community colleges in the country academically," said Wilson, his rage lost in the smoke of back-to-back cigarettes. "Every school has its easy courses, even Notre Dame. This place is more than a last resort for football players. They learn now to accept responsibility. That's what we're here to teach. Maybe I'm wrong. If I am I guess I look pretty stupid most of the time." m
Doubtful, said Wilson's face.
Freddie (Juice) Wagoner is a prime example, a 1978 all-met running back from Dunbar. Last year at this time he was at Langston College in Oklahoma. "Last year at this time it was before the fifth game of the year." oWagoner said. "I didn't have no books, I was failing my classes . . . Now I got all my books and I'm keeping up. My attitudes have grown up. I want to get my education here and I want the scouts to see that I can play. Division I, Divsion II, it doesn't matter. I can run with the football anywhere." i
The rush of Interhigh players to the team has been a plum for Wilson.
"The kids from the Interhigh are touogher, quieter," Wilson said. "They don't say boo . . . they just hit people in the games. That's the kind of players I like."
The Interhigh players are equally satisfied customers. Bobby Mitchell, nicknamed "Caligula," said:
"Coach Wislon is real good. He really helps you hear and I hear he'll talk to big schools for you. Also, everyone on the team is on the same level here . . . black and white. It's the ultimate racial atmosphere."
"We relate very well to these kids," Wilson said. "They didn't just show up. We actively recruited them, talking to their coaches and letting them know of the option we offer. We don't look at it as a way out for them. We help them to get an education. We make sure they do. Sometimes we hand walk them through registration."
While usually seeing things Wilson's way, most Rockville players still dream of free rides through greener pastures. Winning backs the cause.
"Nobody looks at losers," Wagoner said.
Todd Archibald, a sophomore tight end from Sherwood High School, is thinking Oklahoma. Not the play. The football machine.
"I've gotten letters from the football programs at Colorado, Utah and Oklahoma." Archibald said. "I've set a goal of Oklahoma although I know that's a pretty high goal. I imagine football is everything in Oklahoma. You could be mayor if you play football. I know you get you own apartment with one other guy. This probably looks like a boys club team next to that. But really, it's not. There's a big difference between this and hight school ball."
Even if he gets to Oklahoma, Archibald will fleetingly miss Rockville.
"We have a great time on this team. We party, we're all friends, the classes are good, we're winning," he said. "Last year we would play and you could look into the stands and there would be like 10 people. Now we have a boosters club. We still joke around and say we're in 13th grade, but it's really not. I definitely feel like I'm in college."
Chasing away the feeling of being in an extension of high school is an eternal obsession in junior colleges. Linebacker David Kane is pained to admit the social life is like high school. "You hang out in cafeteria. "There's no pub on campus. So you just concentrate a lot on football."
And the football just isn't glamorous.The program is a winner on the scoreboard. Period.
Nose guard Anthony Rucker, from Coolidge High, said, "I miss the glamor that I enjoyed in high school. The program is getting stronger here and the academics are real good. If they publicized the program, the could make money."
Rucker's assessment is a new-wave attitude. Improving the program was never much of a concern of the players who were more interested in bleeding the school for all they could toward their eventual free ride.
"They should care about the school," Wilson said. "It's highly respected among community colleges nationally and the football program should keep pace." a
Which brings Wilson back to practice: "That was the worst I've ever seen them. Tomorrow, it'll be all forgotten. That's the way it is in college ball."