Jim Corcoran, a defensive back for Georgetown University who is a two-time small-college all-America, has to buy his own cleats.
It doesn't particularly bother Corcoran, who is in the same predicament as many talented players at area colleges with low-key football programs. He doesn't even mind eating hamburgers instead of steak before a big game, or footing his own tuition bill -- just as long as nobody uses those things as ammunition to knock his accomplishments.
"So we have to buy our own shoes and share a field," Corcoran mused. "I've come not to let that bother me. We get the whole field on Saturday," he said, joking that the bruise he is rubbing ice on might hurt a lot more in Division I.
"They say if you're good enough, they (the scouts) will find you . . . wherever you are."
Corcoran, who owns or shares 12 Georgetown records for interceptions, place-kicking and punt and kickoff returns, is in no danger of getting lost on the 5-2 Hoyas.
The only reason he regrets playing in Division III is that his 22 career interceptions are well short of the record of 36 in that division. In Division I, he would need only eight more to break the record.
He's talking about trying out for an NFL team. He speaks tentatively about it, hedging and shrugging a lot. But he's serious.
"It all depends on what happens this year," said Corcoran, who is from Potomac and attended Georgetown Prep. "I won't know until later.
"I keep getting that question. Who knows? I'm going to finish my education and give pro ball a shot. If it doesn't work out, I'll always have my degree in finance. But I'm planning on it working out."
Corcoran has managed to overcome -- or at least make a valiant attempt at overcoming -- many of the obstacles that have proved insurmountable for other small-college stars.
Consider the case of Bowie State's Marco Tongue.
Tongue, a senior defensive back from Annapolis, ranked second in the nation in Division II in interceptions last week with six and got another over the weekend. In NAIA District 19, his 12 kickoff returns for a 22-yard average ranked him third last week. And he leads a defense that had given up an average of fewer than 15 points the five games before Bowie State's 50-0 loss to North Carolina Central on Saturday. He has 88 tackles.
"Sure it gets frustrating when you're doing well and you're not getting the recognition," said Tongue, who is majoring in social work. "But you can always come back to your alma mater and see the trophy that says: 'Marco Tongue, all-America.' "
The thing that sets Corcoran and Tongue apart from major college players is their size. Make no mistake, these are small college football players.
Terry Scott, the University of the District of Columbia's 5-foot-7, 150-pound quarterback, is forced to roll out so he can see over the offensive line. Bowie State defensive end Mike Kemp, almost laughable for a player at that position at 5-10 and 160 pounds, has to run into people just to get them to notice him.
Sean Mulholland, standout defensive back for Catholic, is 5-7, 165 pounds. Tongue is 5-9 and weighs 170, and Corcoran is a veritable small-college giant at 5-11, 180 pounds.
In many cases, a few inches is all that stands between the Tongues and Kemps making the big time.
"If Terry (Scott) was taller and had the same ability, there's no doubt in my mind he would have been a highly recruited athlete and done real well at a big school," said Ted Vactor, Scott's coach.
Scott has made the most of his size. When he accepted a scholarship to UDC, the only school to make him an offer, his coach at Coolidge High School, Sam Taylor, came along to direct the offense.
With Scott, UDC (3-5) has opened up its offense. He has responded by completing 47 percent of his passes, for 870 yards and seven touchdowns. And he's still growing.
"I can tell I must be (growing) because I can see the top of the refrigerator now when I stand on my tiptoes," he said. "People make jokes about my size, but when they see me out on the field they realize size doesn't make a difference."
Bowie State's Kemp and Lennie Barfield can sympathize with Scott. Along with Tongue, they've been the bulwarks of the team's defense, and like him, they've had a hard time getting people to notice them.
Barfield, a 5-foot-10, 220-pound junior nose guard from Mitchellville, Md., is dwarfed by most offensive linemen. But he is the Bulldogs' second-leading tackler and has six quarterback sacks.
"We're basically just playing off sheer heart," Barfield said. "On Saturday, you'll just be standing at the line looking up at those jokers and they'll be saying how they're going to whip up the little boys.
"By the third quarter, when they're tired of chasing the little guys all over the field, it's a joy to see the linemen arguing with each other," Barfield said.
"We're just like flies buzzing around them and they can't get rid of us," agreed Kemp, who leads the Bulldogs with eight sacks and three fumble recoveries. "It's just a mind thing. We know we can't outmuscle them, so we have to outthink them."
Bowie State Coach John Organ knows that. So do UDC's Vactor and Georgetown's Scotty Glacken. That's how they manage to keep winning games with teams that don't measure up to a lot of high school squads.
"Normally, what happens is, we get the young men who are too small or too slow by major college standards, but still have a lot to contribute," Organ said. "In most cases, the division is just a name. We have a good schedule and play good competition. We just don't get the same kind of respect and recognition."
Like the sign tacked to the wall of Organ's office says: We the unwilling Led by the unknowing Are doing the impossible For the ungrateful And have done so much For so long With so little We are now qualified To do everything With nothing.