After not playing at all as a freshman, backup kicker Ramon Paredes went to talk with Coach Bobby Ross.

After all, he had starred in soccer at Washington-Lee High School and had quit his first love to play football. After a successful tryout, he had been told to pack his bags and come to College Park. Now, here he was sitting behind Jess Atkinson, week after week, wondering if he should leave the University of Maryland.

"I went to Coach Ross (before the 1983 season) and I asked him, 'What would happen if I transferred?' " Paredes recalled yesterday. "He told me that he'd call some other coaches and help me find a spot where I could play, if that's what I really wanted. But he said I'd also have to sit out an extra year, and by that time, Jess would have only one more year left anyway.

"So I told him, 'Coach, you've got yourself a kicker for four more years. I'll stay and wait my turn.' "

Now Paredes, Maryland's trilingual, South American-born soccer player/singer, at last will have his turn. Atkinson, Maryland's record-setting kicker, has graduated and Paredes, the smallest player on the team at 5 feet 6 and 160 pounds, is finding "my dream has come true."

The fourth-year junior also finds he is one of only two projected starters on the highly ranked Terrapins who is an unknown quantity.

Ross acknowledged last week that while Paredes has a strong leg, nobody knows how he will perform in games. In three years at Maryland, the only time he has played was two years ago as a redshirt freshman, when he kicked off for a slightly gimpy Atkinson at Wake Forest.

Even Paredes said yesterday that, if he kicks three field goals in the opener against Penn State Sept. 7, "I'll probably be on Coach Ross' TV show the next day. If I miss four or five, I'll be a dog. I know I could start off at either extreme: in the doghouse or the starlights.

"Considering all the hype over this season and all the pressure that comes with being the place-kicker, I've been fairly comfortable so far."

He does become perhaps a little uncomfortable when people -- usually interviewers -- try to get him to compare himself to Atkinson, who holds school records for career field goals (60 out of 82), consecutive extra points (93), career points (308) and career extra points (128 out of 131).

"I wear a size six shoe and Jess wears size eight," Paredes said. "That's probably the end of the comparison right there.

"Jess was more outgoing. I'm not shy or anything, but I'm very calm and Jess is more excited. I'm more private . . . Jess worked a lot with weights but I believe more in leg speed. I know I learned from Jess, but I have to forget about his accomplishments. I have, I hope, a lot of future accomplishments."

He looked around at 100 or so players eating at the team training table and said, "I don't think more one or two guys in here know more than small parts about my life."

Paredes (pronounced Pah-RAID-ees) was born in Villarrica, Paraguay. He was 11 months old when his mother died. For the next five years, he lived with his grandparents while his father traveled for an airline. Besides Spanish, he grew up speaking French and Guarani, a Paraguayan dialect. "The only thing I really remember is being a very spoiled little boy. All the people in the village (Asuncion) talked about how I had grandparents and aunts and uncles looking after me. I flew everywhere (because of his father's job) and I had a little horse."

His father remarried and relocated in Arlington. Paredes, who already had started playing soccer, continued and became a star midfielder at Washington-Lee High, and also anchored the championship 440 relay team.

He was so good at soccer and football he played both. "I practiced half and half," he said. "And we had football games every Friday, and soccer games on Monday and Wednesday, so there was never a conflict. I started punting, too, my junior and senior years."

He said John Youngblood, the athletic director at Washington-Lee, called Ross and asked if Paredes could try out.

"Coach Ross told me, 'You kick just like Jess . . . But we don't have any scholarships available.' So I stuck around, technically as a walk-on. My father and Fran Ibrescia (his high school coach) told me, 'Soccer's dying . . . It's not going here, so give football a try.' "

So he worked his way into a scholarship, but did not make the trip with the team to the Sun Bowl last December. Instead, he visited his family and friends in Paraguay for the first time in 11 years. Now he is an integral part of Maryland's hopes of winning a bigger bowl and a national championship.

"I know this is a pressure position," he said. "I told one guy on television that trying to kick three points or an extra point is enough pressure; that I don't need the added pressure of trying to compare myself to Jess . . .

"I don't question my confidence. I'm a kicker and I'm mentally prepared for the nature of the position. I know what everybody else does is very hard. But they've got got 60 minutes to prove themselves; I've got 1.3 seconds three or four times a game, maybe. I haven't played much, but I've been around for awhile. I know how fast it can be starlights or doghouse and I'm ready to give it my best."