"See," said Holtz, the coach who is never wrong. "I told you it wasn't your distance."
Ho's maximum effective range is around 45 yards, so Holtz has assigned him to kick inside that distance. Hackett will handle the boomers beyond that.
That's just fine with Ho. He remains a nonscholarship player, a student-athlete in the purest sense, and says he prefers it that way. "I don't want to be on a scholarship," he says. "I do this for Notre Dame. It's a privilege being here and playing. When I walked on, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
Not surprisingly, considering how refreshing his presence has been, Ho's teammates have warmed to his polite, self-effacing manner—and have gotten a kick of their own out of his newfound celebrity. What's more, he's so darned easy to lift up and pass around after he kicks a field goal. "I kind of like going over and picking him up and hugging him," says 6'3", 279-pound guard Tim Grunhard, who snaps the ball on field goals. "He's like a little brother."
What most strikes his Irish mates, as they watch Ho practice and play, is the clockwork precision he brings to kicking and the extraordinary energy he musters as he explodes through the ball. "It's amazing how a guy that small can put so much into it," says Graham. "It's just great follow-through and extension." That, and an ethereal, otherworldly quality that makes Ho seem here one minute, gone the next.
"Sometimes when you look at him, you think he's not even in this world," says Hackett. "We can be sitting there talking and I'll say, 'Reggie, what do you think?' But he's not listening. He's someplace else. It's like he hovers over the earth in his own world."
When Ho finally walks off at the end of this season, as easily as he once walked on, he will get on with the things he came to South Bend to do in the first place. He has a 3.77 grade point average, and he hopes one day to practice rheumatology. Medicine runs in the family. His father, Reginald, is an oncologist who made his hospital rounds at 6 a.m. last Saturday, listening to the Michigan State game through radio earphones. His mother, Sharilyn, was a registered nurse before she started raising her four children, including Gianna, 19, who is studying preveterinary medicine at Notre Dame and is a student-trainer in the athletic department. Two brothers, one three years older, the other two years younger, were both kickers at St. Louis High.
Ho has one more year of eligibility, but Holtz will have to find someone else to create those fanciful arcs and tangents in 1989. Ho intends to graduate with his class and attend medical school. And he has other things on his agenda. "I'd like to go abroad and help a Third World country, hopefully after medical school," he says. "I am thinking of joining the Peace Corps."