The last number Rick Badanjek expected to hear called in the huddle was his own.
Two weeks ago at West Virginia with less than two minutes left in the game, Maryland was three yards away from a touchdown that could bring the Terrapins within one point of the Mountaineers. Coach Bobby Ross sent Badanjek, a freshman fullback, into the game on third down.
"I was already nervous before he sent me in," Badanjek recalled yesterday. "Then in the huddle, the play called was a '38 toss on the sweep.' I thought, 'Oh no, that's me.' I couldn't believe it. I thought we'd try a pass.
"I just put my head down. I don't think they could see my eyebrows."
Badanjek took the pitchout and got outside the Mountaineers linemen for a touchdown.
Saturday, against North Carolina State, Badanjek rushed for another touchdown. In addition, his blocking helped tailback Willie Joyner rush for a career-high 111 yards.
When Badanjek walked into the Terrapin locker room yesterday afternoon, he was listed as the starting fullback.
"Anybody would be happy, I guess," Badanjek said. "But I've got a lot to learn. I just learned two patterns in a meeting that I'll probably screw up."
So far, Badanjek hasn't done that. Ross said he played "a perfect game" against West Virginia. "That's very difficult to do, especially for our offensive system, and especially for a freshman," Ross said.
Badanjek (pronounced Ba-DAH-nik) stands 5-foot-10, weighs 214 pounds, and runs like a sumo wrestler. Hits like a sumo wrestler, too.
"I haven't seen many of his blocks," Joyner said. "I just know I never have to worry about being hit by Rick's man."
"He's got an enormous upper body," said running back John Nash. "And given the chance, he'll take your head off. He just doesn't play like a rookie. He blocks like he's been here for awhile. He's a heck of an adversary. Keeps me on my toes."
Actually, Badanjek isn't an average freshman. He's 20 years old and spent last year at Glen Mills Academy, a preparatory school in Philadelphia. "I think that extra year was a real advantage for him," said George Foussekis, an assistant coach at Maryland. "He's like a sophomore in maturity and rate of learning."
A strange set of circumstances led to Badanjek's decision to attend Maryland, instead of Penn State, Ohio State or West Virginia.
"I was sent to prep school by Penn State (to improve his grades)," Badanjek said. "Penn State said I didn't have any obligation to them. And when the year was up, I decided not to go there because I didn't think I could make it academically. I guess I could have handled it. But I'm lazy.
"Here," he continued, "I'm getting as much help as I need. Coach Ross told me to go to the tutors as much as necessary, and I've been doing that. I'm trying."
Badanjek, from Southington, Ohio, would have liked to have stayed at home to play football. But when he visited Ohio State, he said he felt uncomfortable.
"When I visited campus," he said, "I stayed with a couple of black guys. I never saw any white guys until meal time or until they (blacks and whites) had to talk to the coaches. All the parties were all black or all white. The black players and white players didn't mix until game day."
That was an extremely uncomfortable position for Badanjek, whose mother is white, father is black. His last name is that of his stepfather, who is Hungarian.
"Everybody here gets along fine," said Badanjek, looking around the locker room. "We don't have the racial separation. I'm homesick, but it's a comfortable atmosphere."
Last week was Badanjek's toughest so far. Having been moved up the depth chart with the veterans, Badanjek started worrying--worrying that he couldn't do what the coaches expected, worrying that he wouldn't do well if he did get to play against N.C. State.
But quarterback Boomer Esiason, tackle Dave Pacella and Nash helped calm Badanjek down, he says, and got him through the week. "Pacella kept telling me how ugly I was," Badanjek said, laughing.
Said Pacella, a senior: "We usually accept the freshmen here, and we accepted Rick right away, even though we'd never let him know it. He was around the weight room this summer, and he was lifting nearly as much as some of us (the veterans). I don't know why he said he's lazy. I think he's a pretty hard worker."
When Badanjek came into the lineup against State, Esiason said, "See kid, I told you you'd be in here." Early in the second quarter, on third and one from the one, Badanjek took the 38 toss on the sweep, and swept quickly around right end for the touchdown.