Seeking Good Carma
The Niners look to Hofstra, of all places, for their quarterback of the future
Joe Montana. Steve Young. Giovanni Carmazzi?
The 49ers' third-round pick chuckles at the mention of his name in such company. "Come on," Carmazzi says. "That doesn't fit. I can only hope to be half of what they were."
Carmazzi has reason to be humble. When his original college, Pacific, dropped football after his freshman year, he transferred to noted football factory Hofstra, where the offensive coordinator told him he wasn't sure Carmazzi could play on the Division I-AA level. Plus, Carmazzi hasn't quarterbacked a pro-style offense since 1994, his senior year at Jesuit High in Sacramento; Hofstra ran a close relative of the old run-and-shoot. No wonder eyes rolled when San Francisco made him the second quarterback taken in the April 15 draft.
But the Niners think they have a player. Bill Walsh has run 12 drafts for San Francisco, and three times he has used fairly high choices to acquire quarterbacks. In '79 he spent the 82nd selection on Montana. In '87 he traded the 50th and 106th choices to Tampa Bay for Young. This year, after passing on Marshall's Chad Pennington in the first round, Walsh took Carmazzi at 65. "It's not a gamble at all," Walsh says. "He reminds me a lot of Ken Anderson, whom I scouted at a small college [Augustana] and picked in the third round when I coached with the Bengals. Everyone wondered who he was, and he led the league in passing a couple of years after we picked him."
Carmazzi has three things the 49ers crave in a backup to—or possible replacement for—Young: speed (at 4.63 in the 40, Carmazzi is the fastest of this year's quarterbacks), accuracy (a 64-4% college completion percentage) and brains (3.9 grade point average in business administration) to master a tough offense. "He throws the best on the run of anyone coming out this year," says Niners offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.
It's a tall order, asking Carmazzi to go from the wide-open attack he ran at Hofstra to San Francisco's precise West Coast scheme, and asking him to go from playing Delaware State and South Florida to facing the Cowboys and the Rams. But concerning the latter, at least, Carmazzi will have company: tackle Dave Fiore and safety Lance Schulters, both Hofstra alumni, were starters last year for the 49ers. "The guys I'll be playing against are better than those I've faced," says Carmazzi, "but remember, the guys on my side of the ball are better too."
Much to the dismay of Mr. E, the pugnacious pastor mascot who looked like the Notre Dame leprechaun's evil twin, North Carolina's Elon College ended a decade of debate last October by retiring its nickname, the Fightin' Christians, and will shortly unveil its new identity. Unlike recent college nickname switches spurred by complaints of insensitivity (e.g., St. John's Redmen becoming the Red Storm), Elon's change was born of confusion. For years school administrators found themselves debunking the notion that progressive, liberal arts Elon is a conservative Christian institution like Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. Says Nan Perkins, Elon's head of fund-raising and its former admissions director, "I've had anxious parents of prospective Jewish students see the nickname and pull me aside to ask, 'What does this mean?' "
While Elon is affiliated with the United Church of Christ, its mascot derives from a 1921 football game against Guilford, a Society of Friends college in Greensboro, N.C., a matchup one sportswriter dubbed the Christians versus the Quakers. For better or worse, the name stuck.