Football may be the only place in the world where an Ivy League education is a handicap.
For Jeff Kemp and David Shula, one of the best quarterback/wide receiver combinations in the history of Dartmouth, playing ball in the undistinguished Ivy League probably was the reason they were both passed over in this year's pro football draft.
Still, both were invited to try out as free agents for pro teams, Kemp by the Los Angeles Rams and Shula by the Baltimore Colts. Since their arrival in their respective camps, each has caught his coaches' attention -- and not because of who their fathers are: Jack Kemp, now a congressman, was a quarterback for Buffalo and San Diego and Don Shula is the coach of the Miami Dolphins.
"I had not heard much about him (Shula) when he was in college," said Dick Bielski, the Colt receivers coach. "He's a delight to coach. He never stops running, he's very eager."
Paul Lanham, the Ram quarterback coach, echoed Bielski's praise for his own newcomer.
"I was surprised, mostly by the strength of his arm," said Lanham. "When you think that he played in the Ivy League, with no spring practice and in all that inclement weather, it's really hard to believe that he developed that kind of strength."
If their coaches are surprised by their talents, Kemp and Shula -- best friends and fraternity brothers -- are not.
"I'm confident that I can make the team," said Shula during an interview this week. "But as a rookie you don't know how you stand in the coach's eyes. You just hope you do something good to catch his attention.
"I think I've got his attention now. I've just got to cut down on the number of mistakes I make," Shula said.
Shula wasted no time in catching the coaches' attention. He did it during one of the first rookie scrimmages against the Redskins, where his good hands and ability to return punts convinced the coach to give him some playing time during the preseason games.
Now Shula has the coaching staff telling people that the fourth-string wide receiver has a good chance of making the team.
Kemp believes both he and his best friend will be playing pro football this fall.
"I've got a feeling Dave's gonna make it . . . and I think I'll still be here when camp is over," Kemp said. "You've got to be confident about your abilities, and I am."
Kemp has reason to be confident. He arrived at camp in the No. 4 quarterback's slot. Days later, after the No. 2 man, Bob Lee, developed tendinitis in his throwing arm and No. 3 Jeff Rutledge bruised his shoulder, Kemp found himself backing up first-string quarterback Pat Haden.
So far, in two exhibition games, Kemp has completed three of seven passes for 49 yards. But Lanham says numbers don't tell the whole story.
Playing in the fourth quarter against New England two weeks ago, Kemp threw three yards for a touchdown. What impressed Lanham most in that game was Kemp's performance on a play he had never practiced.
"Jeff had seen the play on films and watched the other quarterbacks practice it, but he had never thrown that ball himself," said Lanham. "It's certainly the sign of a smart player and a real good athlete."
Lanham noted that Lee is quickly recovering and is expected to play in this weekend's game against San Diego. "If things go as planned and Lee is back, I don't expect him (Kemp) to play this weekend."
Since their arrival in training camp last month, Shula and Kemp have received a lion's share of attention from the press and fans because of their fathers. Both players say the family name can be a help at times but also a burden.
"Being Don Shula's son means I get more attention than some of the other rookies," acknowledged Shula. "It can really hurt you if you're getting all the attention if you're not doing anything."
For Kemp, growing up in the shadow of his famous father prompted him to keep his football aspirations under wraps.
"I always wanted to play pro football, but I never admitted it to anyone until recently because wanting that career would have seemed too much of a coincidence because of who my father was," said Kemp, who played at Churchill High School in Potomac. "Being Jack Kemp's son could be a drawback now, but I'm not going to let it."
From the Dolphin training camp outside of Miami, the elder Shula anxiously awaits news of his son's football progress -- progress he has been unable to observe firsthand because of commitments to his own team.
"I've only seen Dave play one time in college," said Shula, who keeps in touch with his son with frequent phone calls. "That was the last game of the season against Princeton last year when I had a Saturday off. It's so hard to tell if he's going to make it.
"It's a long shot, but he's hanging in there."