Sometime late Saturday afternoon, Mark Herrmann will crank up his arm one last time for Purdue University, and the most porlific passing career in NCAA history will be complete.
With Len Dawson, Bob Griese, Mike Phipps and Gary Danielson listed among Purdue's alumni, outstanding quarterbacks are nothing new to Boilermaker fans. But never have they seen anything like the numbers Herrmann has amassed in four years at West Lafayette, Ind.
Quite simply, Herrmann has completed more passes (717) in more attempts (1,218) for more yards (9,188 in regular-season play and 9,657 if bowl games are included) than anyone in NCAA history. An additional 343 yards against Missouri in Saturday's Liberty Bowl would make Herrmann college football's first 10,000-yard passer.
Admittedly, the freshman-eligible rule has contributed to Herrmann's passing records, but he surpassed the totals of Dawson, Griese, et al even before his senior year.
Herrmann's talents are by no means limited to football. He led his high-school basketball team to the Indiana state championship and once struck out 18 batters in a baseball game.
As a recreational golfer, Herrmann shoots in the mid 80s ("nothing great," he says, almost apologetically), but one suspects he could knock 10 strokes off that average without too much effort. Herrmann ranked in the top 15 percent of his high-school class and will graduate from Purdue with a degree in management on schedule.
Herrmann is tall (6 feet 5), slim (190 pounds) and handsome. In short, he is the Golden Boy, the guy who has everything.
But if stardom has come easily to Herrmann, coping with it has not. Reserved and genuinely modest, he doesn't like to talk about himself. After 1,000 interviews, Herrmann answers reporters' questions politely and smoothly but his straight face and unemotional voice suggest he'd rather be doing just about anything else.
"On the field, everything comes fairly easy to me," said Herrmann. "Generally, it's just a matter of getting back there and throwing the football. I think I'm more suited to that then talking to people."
But Herrmann seems to be the kind of person who can't say no.
"He may be too nice," said Purdue Coach Jim Young. "If anyone wants to talk to him, he'll never say no. If somebody wants him to speak at a junior high banquet, he will. The demands on his time become pretty great."
Herrmann was raised in an upper-middle-class family in the suburbs of Kansas City and Indianapolis and his Midwestern upbringing is reflected in his easygoing nature, modesty and conservative life style (his girlfriend is his high-school sweetheart).
But don't call him a "stick in the mud," as Sports Illustrated once did.
"That really irked me," said the normally imperturbable Herrmann. "It was a total misrepresentation. I like to go out and party like everyone else."
Most of all, Herrmann just wants to be part of the gang. But he has been the center of attention at Purdue from the moment Young inserted him in the first quarter of the opening of his freshman year.
That first season was a trying one for Herrmann as he passed for 2,453 yards but also suffered 27 interceptions in a 5-6 season.
Since then, Herrmann has led Purdue to records of 9-2-1, 10-2 and 8-3 and three consecutive bowl games. The Boilermakers defeated Georgia Tech in the 1978 Peach Bowl and Tennessee in the 1979 Bluebonnet Bowl. Herrmann was named the MVP in each game. He goes into the Liberty Bowl as the AP and UPI first-team all-America quarterback and finished fourth in this year's Heisman Trophy balloting.
Herrmann had only one bad game in 1980, and he believes it cost him his chance at winning the Heisman. Michigan embarrassed Purdue, 26-0, on national television, holding Herrmann to 129 yards passing with four interceptions.
"I thought I was in pretty good shape (to win the Heisman) going into the Michigan game," Hermann said. "If I wasn't one of the favorites, I was up there. I figured that game would either make me or break me, and unfortunately it was the latter. It's unfortunate that they put so much stock in one game."
Pro scouts don't, however, and they consider Herrmann, who wears an inflatable vest under his jersey to help protect his fragile body, one of three blue-chip quarterbacks in the next NFL draft. The others are Portland State's Neil Lomax and California's Rich Campbell.
"Herrmann is extremely smart, he's tall, he understands the passing game and he shows good leadership," said Gil Brandt, vice president in charge of player development for the Dallas Cowboys. "His only negative is that he doesn't have a Terry Bradshaw-type arm. But Fran Tarkenton didn't, either. . ."