Laufenberg arrived at the Chargers' offices at noon, and Nay told him to call Jeff. "Sign on the dotted line," his brother said. The deal was done in about 10 minutes, or roughly three years less time than it took to sign that day's headline-grabber, running back Gary Anderson, who had been one of the best in the USFL at Tampa Bay.
"Looks like they stole my thunder," Laufenberg said, smiling, as he watched a San Diego sportscaster devote his entire broadcast to Anderson. Perhaps the Laufenberg story would get some second-day play.... Forget it. "Did you hear the Chargers fired [defensive coordinator] Tom Bass today?" he said. Later, just before he checked into the Hanalei Hotel, a hotel operator was asked to connect a visitor with Babe Laufenberg's room. "I'm sorry, sir, but she hasn't checked in yet," said the operator.
"I like to joke that I'm kind of the Marv Throneberry of football," says Laufenberg, whose real name is Brandon Hugh. He got the nickname from Jeff, who noted his younger brother's habit of adopting a baseball stance at any place, any time. "Anyway, I hated the name Brandon," Babe says.
"I've played for Bill Walsh [at Stanford], Joe Gibbs and Don Coryell, played behind John Elway [at Stanford], Joe Theismann and Dan Fouts, and what have I done? But that doesn't mean I don't think I can play. I think I can."
Actually, Laufenberg's odyssey really began way back when he was an outstanding quarterback at Crespi Carmelite High School in Encino, where he completed 54% of his passes his senior year. He signed on at Stanford, persuaded, in part, by Fouts, who called on behalf of Walsh. But after redshirting Laufenberg his freshman year, Stanford brought in a hotshot named Elway. "I was third-team after two weeks," Laufenberg recalls. So he hit the road.
His next stop was Missouri, but that lasted one semester. A better-than-average student, Laufenberg had become "spoiled" by Stanford's philosophy toward academics and athletics. "And there was some degree of culture shock," he says. "I'd never been out of California before." He went back home to L.A. and played one year at Pierce Junior College before Lee Corso, then the coach of Indiana, courted him. He had good reason. Laufenberg threw for over 1,600 yards in seven games for Pierce. At Indiana, Babe set school records for most passes completed in one season (217), single game (34) and career (361).
Laufenberg was drafted by Washington in the sixth round in 1983 and spent his first year as the third quarterback and his second on injured reserve.
The Chargers say they are looking to Laufenberg as a backup to Mark Hermann during what is expected to be a three-to-six-week recovery period for Fouts. Until he gets a chance, the Babe will assume the proper backup quarterback stance on the sidelines, clipboard in hand, headphones in place—and road map in the jacket pocket.