With 10:30 still left in the second quarter and Maryland leading Mississippi State 9-0 last Saturday, Dale Castro trotted out onto the field in Byrd Stadium once again. After almost nonchalantly toeing the 22-yard line, Castro stepped back from the spot where holder Brent Dewitz would place the ball and waited. By now, the scene that ensued had become as predictable and familiar as the gray clouds scudding overhead on this windy, rainy afternoon in College Park, Md.
This was the fourth time in 14 minutes that Coach Jerry Claiborne had sent in Castro to try a field goal. At the end of Maryland's first series of downs, Claiborne had called on Castro to boot one from 45 yards out. It was good. Up went the officials' arms. Up went the roar of the Maryland cannon. Up from their seats came the Terrapin fans. Up went the score: 3-0. Less than a minute into the second quarter, Castro struck again, this time from 29 yards, to make it 6-0, and 2:38 later he had hit once more, this time from 18 yards, to make it 9-0.
And now, he was ready to try a fourth time. Like all good field-goal kickers, Castro has a stroke that's as grooved as a golfer's. "It's natural to me," he says. "I think: 'Keep the head down. Follow through. And point the toe of the plant foot—the left foot—toward the goalposts.' If I do that, I know the ball will go there."
The ball did go there, to give Maryland a 12-0 lead. Though Castro didn't know it at the time, his kick had tied the NCAA record for the most field goals kicked in a half. More important, it was another indication of why Maryland is 3-0 and a surprise contender for a Top 20 ranking and the ACC title.
The Terrapins went on to crush Mississippi State 35-14, and Castro's kicking—he had a fifth field goal, a 42-yarder, in the fourth quarter, and punted four times for an average of 41.8 yards—earned him MVP honors for the game. Moreover, he is now the leading kicker in the nation, having connected on all 10 of his field-goal tries this season. His 36 points also tie him for the NCAA scoring lead. And all this from a walk-on, who had come to Maryland as a baseball recruit in the hope he could earn a scholarship with his pitching.
Castro never got to show his smoke, because he came down with mononucleosis in the fall of his freshman year and spent his days watching football workouts. He had kicked in high school at Shady Side, Md. and began to figure that he could boot the ball as well as anyone he had seen in a Maryland jersey. So, he tried out. By the start of the next season, he had won a scholarship—in football.
If this saga of a man stepping out of nowhere to perform heroics seems a bit unlikely, be advised that, in effect, this is what has happened to a number of the football players at College Park this fall. For the Terps this has been a season of walk-ons, rookies and replacements stepping in to play magnificently. Certainly foremost among them is sophomore Charles DeGraffenreid Wysocki, a substitute running back in his freshman year who has become the No. 1 ballcarrier in the nation.
As might be expected, as the Terps' star, Wysocki has the most startling tale to tell. Born the 12th of 14 children of a struggling black family in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., he is today the third child of an affluent white family from the same town. At the start of the ninth grade, DeGraffenreid was befriended by Steve Wysocki, the son of Stan Wysocki, a masonry contractor, and his wife Pat. Not long after Steve first brought Charlie to his house to watch home movies of their Meyers High football games, the Wysockis invited the youngster back for dinner. That was just the beginning. In fact, every Tuesday night that fall, young DeGraffenreid dined at the Wysockis'.
"It seemed like we opened the door, Charlie came in and that was that," says Stan Wysocki. "He just became part of the family. That's the way it happened."
"I simply thought my parents [the Wysockis] were great people," Charlie says.