Mention the name Jimmy Segala on the Gallaudet campus and you will elicit fond memories.
The potent arm, the quick feet, the 5,996 passing yards and 45 touchdown passes over the quarterback's four-year career. Most of all, the two American Collegiate Football Conference titles and 29-11 record.
Now Segala stalks the Bison sideline. Toting his clipboard as quarterbacks coach, his goal is to inject some punch into Gallaudet's unseasoned offense. With 24 players gone from last year's 7-3 conference co-champions, the Bison have skidded to an 0-5 start in 1990.
"You really can't compare last year and this year because of the different personnel," second-year coach Rich Pelletier said. "It's turnovers that are killing us. We had two opportunities inside the 10-yard line against St. Francis and we fumbled" in a 24-13 loss.
Although the Bison outgained the Red Flash in total yards, 248 to 141, their five turnovers spoiled any chance of victory.
Gallaudet, a school that first played football in 1883, never had seen a player exodus as the one that followed last season. Six players, including Segala and defensive stalwart Chris Von Garrel (94 tackles, three interceptions in 1989), graduated, but many others left the school for personal reasons or quit the team while remaining at the school.
Speedy wide receiver Darnell Woods left the school, while a fellow Division III all-American candidate, linebacker John McRae, transferred to a small college in Texas. With so many newcomers, the burden of leadership has been thrust on a trio of players: senior nose guard Emil Jones, junior linebacker Toselli Silvestri and junior running back Karl White.
"I don't feel frustrated yet because I feel our team will improve from game to game," Jones said. "All I have to do is do my job."
The accolades showered on Jones prove just how well he does it. The ACFC defensive player of the year as a sophomore and a first-team conference selection last season, Jones has 33 tackles this season. At White Station High School in Memphis, he played on a team even more up-and-down than the Bison.
"We went 1-9 when I was a junior then made the state playoffs my senior year," Jones said. "So I know what it's like to experience different emotions."
Silvestri has a team-best 69 tackles -- 18 Saturday in a 24-14 loss to Thiel (Pa.) College -- and recovered a St. Francis fumble in the end zone for a score two weeks ago. He said the squad relates to Pelletier, who is deaf, better than previous coach Bob Westermann, who is not hearing impaired.
"We sometimes had a problem of communication," Silvestri said of Westermann, who resigned after the 1988 season to spend time with his family. "This is a better relationship. My job here is to get the team excited about games."
Perhaps the greatest burden, however, is borne by White. Last year's rushing leader (745 yards) has 307 yards this year, averaging only 3.7 yards per carry. White did have a 45-yard touchdown reception in the loss to Thiel. His greatest concern: avoiding mental mistakes. A year from now, White expects the Bison to return to winning form.
The losses -- to Jersey City, rival Georgetown, Marist, St. Francis and Thiel -- have not disheartened Segala, who has been faced with the task of training two new quarterbacks, freshman Mike Rivera and sophomore Kelvin Etkie, a converted soccer player. The tandem has completed only 47 percent of its passes and thrown six interceptions.
Opponents have totaled 684 yards through the air, while the Bison have managed 522. This discrepancy has turned a formerly dominant passing attack near dormant.
But Segala remains optimistic, particularly after Rivera's performance Saturday against Thiel, when he completed eight of 10 passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns.
"It's the same as when I was a freshman," Segala said. "Just a lot of practice, practice, practice. I'm always here to help the team, even if I'm not on the field. I wish I was though."