If you added the distance of all passes Neil Lomax has completed in four years at Portland State, you'd be outside the city limits.
And if Lomax could throw one pass that far, he could throw from the 50-yard line at Portland Civic Stadium and his his split end in the corner of the end zone at his old high school in suburban Lake Oswego. The ball would pass over three high schools, three colleges, four parks and the University of Oregan Medical School. On the fly.
That's 12,298 yards in the language of football. It is almost seven miles.
It is three day's jogging for Jimmy Carter.
Lomax is so far ahead of college football history that the records don't mean a thing anymore. His nearest competitor is Purdue's Mark Hermann, who has thrown for 9,205 yards. Lomax passed that in the last game of his junior year.
Hermann has thrown for 300 yards or more five times; Lomax has thrown for 400 yards or more on eight occassions. Hermann has passed for 63 touchdowns, Lomax 98.
It is far easier to document the NCAA passing records Lomax doesn't hold than the ones he does. His NCAA all-division records through nine games of this season total 42. In Portland State's 105-0 victory over Delaware State Saturday night, Lomax threw eight touchdown passes, seven in the first quarter, giving him 98, the college record for career touchdown passes, previously held by Doug Williams of Grambling with 93.
Of course, there are many astericks. Lomax plays in the NCAA's Division I-AA, the gray area between major football programs and the hit-and-giggle schools. He has done all his damage against teams such as Eastern Washington, Humboldt State, Puget Sound and Cal State-Northridge. About as big as he ever gets is the Big Sky Conference.
He passes out of an offense that is as close to a fast break as there is in the college game. It's called the run and shoot, and it gets receivers into the seams fast. As a play begins, there are two split ends, two slot backs and a single running back. At the snap, it's helter-skelter with a design.
Still, Lomax has a lot of the physical and mental characteristics of some very good professionals. At 6 feet 3 and 212 pounds, he is the same height as and three pounds lighter than Terry Bradshaw. In arm strength, he is at least the equal of Bert Jones before the Colt quarterback's shoulder problems.
Lomax's attitude is bouyed by the evangelical confidence of Jim Zorn (trust in The Lord, he will find the open man). In foot speed, well, Redskin coaches seldom asked Billy Kilmer or Sonny Jergenson to run the ball.
Whatever the skeptics say, Lomax has some respected judges of football flesh in his corner.One of them is Gil Brandt, vice president of personnel development for the Dallas Cowboys, who paid a visit to Portland State practice two weeks ago and came away glowing.
"The guy is a lot better than I thought he was," Brandt told a Portland writer. "You talk about size or arm strngth or character or anything you want -- this guy is a player."
"He's definitely a first-round draft choice and he will have an impact on the National Football League. Unless I'm completley off base, this is the kind of guy you can go with into the playoffs.
"When he gets drafted, it'll cause a lot of guys to wonder what this quarterback from Portland State is doing being drafted so high. They won't wonder after they see him play."
Roman Gabriel, in his first year as head coach at Cal Poly-Pomana, didn't see much of Lomax in a 93-7 embarrassment two weeks ago, but he saw a lot of film going into the game. Having taken a few snaps in the NFL, he has some idea about what it takes to play at that level.
"Anybody who can sprint to one side then throw back 30 or 40 yards to the other side with accuracy has to have a great arm," he said. "I have two question marks. First, I don't know how he will react or adjust to being in a passing pocket (PSU's passing is done entirely on the roll).
"I don't know if he can call a complete game," Gabriel said. "Everything he does right now involves the pass, so he's never seen the complete picture."
To that end, Lomax has spent the last two summers working out at Civic Stadium with June Jones, his predecessor at Portland State, and Jones' Atlanta Falcon teammate, Steve Bartkowski. The three have worked entirely on drop back passing with patterns provided by another Portland State alumnus, St. Louis Cardinal end Dave Stief.
Lomax threw perhaps 500 passes a day for two months this summer. So much for durablitiy.
To understand how Lomax wound up at Portland State, it is necessary to understand both the school and the player. PSU is an urban commuter school, a two-minute walk from Portland's downtown business district. It has 17,000 students and no football stadium and it spreads around among all the teams whatever scholarship money it can scrape up.
The school hired Darrell (Mouse) Davis as its head football coach in 1974. With the football program on the brink of oblivion, the college fathers felt obligated to hire a guy who could bring some excitement into the stadium. Whatever the skeptics don't like about the run and shoot free offense, 60 passes a game is a crowd-pleaser.
Davis had to have a quarterback. In 1977, he took a chance on a big kid from Lake Oswego who had the physical dimensions, if not the credentials, to run his show. In high school, Lomax threw perhaps 10 times a game, and then only in his senior year. Recruiters waved hello as they drove past.
He didn't really go to Portland State with the idea of setting college football on its hip pads. The idea was to keep having fun and perhaps get a little education on the way.
"I just liked football and thought maybe I could play here," he said last week. "I don't set long-range goals like some other guys. I never set out to throw for this many yards or that many touchdowns. What I wanted to do was start, then take it from there."
He got that much in the middle of his freshman year, when he won the starting job. Since then, it's been bombs away for Lomax.
He has seen just about every conceivable secondary trick and completed passes against each. He has not won consistently -- the Vikings are just 24-18 while he has been there -- but he says he's had a lot of fun.
"I haven't lost that part of football yet," he said. "It's still fun. It has to be for me or I won't play.
"I'm really anxious to see what happens in the future, but I hear that sometimes pro football gets to be rough. When it stops being fun, I'll step out. I don't need that."
Lomax, the son of a Portland school music teacher, is getting a taste of the big time more and more these days. He gets calls day and night from agents, has picked up some national media attention and has withstood the hyperbole of the scouts.
"It's all come so easy," he said. "I'm really spoiled, in a way. The pressures have been really small so far."