2007 ACC Football Legend: Maryland's Dick Shiner
Oct. 18, 2007
By Wilt Browning
When one steps through the door to the offices of Steve Smear, two things are certain. For one, it is clearly possible to purchase insurance policies there against the loss of life, health, home and transportation from the man with the big smile and the very firm handshake.
Beyond doubt, as well, is the fact that he owes his loyalty to Penn State University. The former second team All-American Nittany Lion linebacker has decorated his work space with the trappings of his memorable college football career.
The irony is that Smear's office is a long way from Happy Valley. It is in College Park, Maryland, at the very edge of the sprawling University of Maryland campus and within a spirited walk from Byrd Stadium, home edifice of the UM Terrapin football team.
"Not a day goes by it seems when somebody doesn't mention 1961 and your name," Smear told Dick Shiner, once Maryland's quarterback, this summer when the two spent a few minutes sharing memories at a party that honored former Baltimore Colt lineman Art Donovan.
There is further irony here. That a single game played 46 years ago still holds so much importance is remarkable in itself. Couple that with the fact that it was the only game in a series between the two schools that ran from 1960 through 1993 in which the Terrapins were triumphant. Maryland tried to beat Joe Paterno's football team 36 other times, and all but one became Penn State victories, some of them one-sided. That one exception ended in a tie.
"It was the first game I ever started at Maryland," Shiner, one of a string of strong-armed Terrapin quarterbacks, said.
"And that's why I'm a legend."
Indeed, Shiner is a Legend, one of a dozen representing Atlantic Coast Conference schools who will be honored at this year's Dr Pepper ACC Football Championship weekend in Jacksonville, Fla., Nov. 30-Dec. 1. Shiner is one of three quarterbacks in this year's Legends class, joined there by the University of Miami's Jim Kelly, who is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Norm Snead who starred at Wake Forest.
While it is true that Shiner will perhaps forever be revered for that one shining moment played out on Nov. 4, 1961, to cast him as a legend only for that is to fail to understand the talent and the impact of this man. Indeed, he remains a rarity in Atlantic Coast Conference lore having two times been named All-ACC in a conference, perhaps then even more than now, known for producing remarkable quarterbacks.
What is less widely known is that but for the persistence of a young football coach, Shiner might be showing up at the Legends celebration as a Duke hero, not from Maryland.
"I wanted to go to Duke," he said. "I went for a visit down there and I'd never seen a campus like that one, all the old Gothic building built of granite. It was very impressive, and Duke was a great football school, too."
But in 1959 along came one Lee Corso, an assistant coach for Tom Nugent at Maryland and a man on the young end of a career that would lead to collegiate head coaching jobs and his present work as a college football analyst on national television.
"Coach Corso had come up to Pennsylvania to look at some great running back on a team we were playing," Shiner said. "I come from a town (Lebanon, Pa.) that in the late 1950s numbered, maybe, 12,000 people, and 10,000 of them would show up on Friday night for the high school football game.
"And coach Corso was in the crowd and when he got there, he maybe didn't know who I was. But I threw four touchdown passes that night.
"He came to my school a few days later to talk to me. Coaches didn't do that as much as they do now, and that impressed me. That's how I wound up at Maryland."
It was no misstep for Shiner.
He starred as a throwing quarterback in an era when many head coaches still subscribed to the old theory that two of three things that can happen to a forward pass are bad. "We were throwing the ball 20, 22 times a game, sometimes a few more," Shiner said. "You'd look in the paper on Sunday morning and you'd read that some other ACC team was 4-for-7 passing. We were conservative compared to today's offenses, but we threw the ball a lot for the time."
Like all those people who show up at Steve Smear's office, Shiner still treasures the victory over Penn State in his first collegiate start. But the memories of a handful of other games remain precious to the man who went on to spend 11 seasons in the National Football League. Among them is a victory over one of Syracuse's legendary teams.
"It was a great Syracuse team," Shiner said. "The great Ernie Davis was on that team along with a lot of other great players, players like John Mackey, Art Baker at fullback, Roger Brown.
"Through the first two games, against a really good SMU team and Clemson, I'd been running with the second team and Coach Nugent would put us in for a quarter or two. Then the Syracuse game came up and they were one of the national powerhouses. They were ranked in the Top 10 (seventh).
"Coach Nugent called those of us on the second team the `Go' team and against Syracuse he sent the `Go' team in in the third quarter. I ran 29 yards, which is an awfully long way for me, and we scored a touchdown and beat that great Syracuse team (22-21)."
While it had not happened at Duke, Shiner learned later what it was like succeeding Jurgensen.
"First of all," Shiner said, "Sonny's the best passer I ever saw. Ever! When I was his backup with the Redskins, we'd practice down by the river and people would come out and watch and we'd have a crowd sitting up there on the bank. And Sonny would always put on a show, throwing the ball behind his back, sprinting to his right and throwing a strike back across the field to some fast wide receiver 30 yards down the far sideline. I don't think anybody could ever throw a football like Jurgensen could.
"So, when it came my turn to run the offense, I couldn't do any of that stuff, and the crowd up on the bank would always boo. They'd boo me in practice!"
But that all changed on Sunday, Nov. 28, 1965, as Jurgensen endured one of his uncharacteristically dismal days on the field. It had been a long, losing season, one in a series, and those who had remained faithful to their beloved Redskins finally had had enough.
Again and again as each Jurgensen pass in its turn feel incomplete, the booing grew deafening. Finally, Bill McPeak, the head coach, seeking to spare Jurgensen further humiliation, called him to the sidelines.
"Shiner! Get in there!" McPeak roared.
Shiner buttoned his Redskins helmet and as he did, the roar from the crowd began to build. By the time Shiner trotted onto the well-worn D.C. Stadium turf, the cheers were thunderous.
"Probably a lot the same people who bring the 1961 Penn State game up to Steve Smear all the time," Shiner guessed.
Wilt Browning is a special contributor to theACC.com. He spent more than 40 years as a sports editor and columnist in the Southeast. He worked for the Greenville News, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, the Charlotte Observer, the Greensboro News & Record and the Asheville Citizen-Times. His numerous awards include five North Carolina Sports Writer of the Year honors. He is also the author of five books, including Come Quittin' Time which was released this summer.
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