In the three days since Willie Joyner's record-breaking rushing performance against North Carolina, the prevailing theme among the giddy at College Park has been: Joyner for the Heisman Trophy. From Joyner, there have been the usual quiet words.
Joyner, with a Maryland-record 240 yards on only 16 carries, had a better Saturday than Herschel Walker of Georgia or Eric Dickerson of Southern Methodist, two leading candidates for college football's most prestigious award.
"No, no, no, please, no Willie for Heisman," Joyner said yesterday. "It feels great to get the attention. Saturday was the greatest football day of my life. I have confidence in my abilities, but it's like a dream, to do that against the best defensive team in the nation.
"Even after the 84-yard touchdown run, when I was under a pile of other Terps, I said to Greg Hill, 'I can't believe this is happening.'
"But, please, no Heisman talk."
There is no bigger celebrity in college football for the moment than Joyner, a 5-foot-10, 195-pound junior tailback, who moved as a child from Snow Hill, N.C., to Brooklyn, N.Y.
There have been several single-game rushing totals this season better than Joyner's, but few if any have come in such an important game, and with such flair. He scored on touchdown runs of 49 and 84 yards and set up a third touchdown with a 55-yard carry.
It is somewhat ironic that stardom has found Joyner, who is one of the few shy players on a team full of zany characters. Joyner, a radio-TV major at Maryland, would like to be a disc jockey, but he's worried that it will require too much talking.
"I think he's a little embarrassed by all the attention," said Tyrone Furman, a defensive tackle and one of Joyner's roommates.
"News Center 4 sent a camera crew over to our room Sunday night to interview Willie and he was scared to death," said defensive end Brian Baker, another roommate. "He was worried about whether his hands were in front of his face and just about anything else.
"He's excited, probably happier about what happened than anybody around here. But he's just not one to say, 'Me, me, me.' "
During an interview yesterday with a person Joyner was familiar with, he said, "I can't believe I'm sitting here nervous. I got a lot of attention in high school, but it's been pretty quiet since until now. It's kinda scary that all the attention is on me. I just hope the guys on the team realize I know it was a team effort, and not just me."
Before Saturday's game, Joyner had some very good games as a Terrapin, but nothing approaching 240 yards. For the year, he now has 714.
Last year, as a sophomore, he played behind Charlie Wysocki, Maryland's all-time rushing leader. He started against West Virginia last year when Wysocki was injured and gained 96 yards.
Against North Carolina State Sept. 25, he ran for 111 yards. But as recently as Oct. 23, against Duke, John Nash was the starter. Coach Bobby Ross said he wasn't sure until late last week which player would start at tailback at North Carolina.
Joyner was asked what enabled him to double the total of his previous best rushing day. "It was a matter of everybody doing their jobs to the most exact detail," he said. "I really didn't do much. There was excellent blocking from the offensive linemen and (tight end) John Tice. I didn't even have to break many tackles.
"I go into every game expecting to break long runs like that, but it's difficult to do, realistically."
It's especially difficult to do because Joyner isn't very fast. By his own admission, he runs the 40-yard dash in 4.6 or 4.7 seconds, which is slow for a major-college tailback.
But Furman, who practices against Joyner, offered a reason for his roommate's success.
"He's a quick, powerful little guy," said Furman. "You don't arm-tackle him (the Tar Heels found that out). He has enough leg drive, if you do, to pull away. He has a fullback kind of style. He doesn't look much for the holes and there's not much finesse. He just plows right through."
Although Joyner clearly was the player Maryland's offense emphasized last week, he may not be against Miami Saturday at Byrd Stadium. If Nash or fullback Dave D'Addio starts quickly, then that player will get the bulk of the work in the flexible offensive scheme.
Joyner was reminded Sunday afternoon that his performance had one small flaw. Russell Davis, Maryland's leading receiver, was blocking a Tar Heel lineman when Joyner stumbled and stepped on Davis' right foot, which resulted in a twisted ankle for the receiver. Davis walked on crutches yesterday, but said he hopes to be ready to play by the end of the week.
Defensive guard Mike Corvino, a team captain, walked into the Terrapins' locker room yesterday without his brace or a limp and proclaimed he will be ready to play Saturday, if needed.