Terps take no prisoners as Suter never surrenders

October 09, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Steve Suter will probably never get called on in class, become a traffic cop or ever get sworn in for any political office.

It's because he refuses to raise his hand.

The University of Maryland receiver proudly admits he has never raised his arm and shown the palm of his hand to anyone - most of all opposing punt teams - in his life. That would mean he is asking them to stop, and that isn't Suter's style.

"I have never called for a fair catch, in high school or college," Suter admits. "I have always felt that if I catch the ball and just fall one yard forward, that's one more yard than we could have had if I would have called a fair catch. That one yard could make the difference in a drive if I didn't get it."


It's a philosophy which has served Suter well. The "catch me if you can" philosophy has made Suter a dangerous weapon for the Terrapins and an eventual record holder in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Suter, a North Carroll graduate, could become the ACC's all-time punt return leader on Saturday against Georgia Tech at Byrd Stadium. He needs four yards to become the league's all-time yardage leader, surpassing the mark of 1,191 yards set by North Carolina State's Ledel George in 1991-93.

It is a record he may have had long ago though, if his reputation didn't precede him. Suter has returned six punts for touchdowns in his career with the Terps, including four scores in 2002. Now opponents would rather kick anywhere but to Suter, which has hampered his coronation as the ACC's best ever.

"I don't know what I can do to make them kick it to me," Suter said. "It's out of my control."

True. And whether he likes it or not, Suter is making a name for himself in two different games.

First in football as a receiver and kick returner. And now, by becoming the middle man in a game of Keep Away.

Through Maryland's first four games, 12 of the opposition's first 22 punts have been angled out of bounds. The result is a 32.5 yards per punt average, five to 15 yards shorter than normal kicks.

"When they kick the ball away from you, it shows they respect you as a player," Suter said. "It's nice, but that's not what I want. I want the ball in my hands.

"Any time they kick away from me it helps us as a team too. They kick the ball out of bounds or short, it gives us better field position. If they only kick the ball 23 yards, it gives us 20 yards better on our field position. It's not what I want, but it helps the team."

So lately, Suter has been standing on the field, looking like a decoy at a duck hunt. Opposing teams will kick short or away from him, or just straight out of bounds.

Their philosophy is Suter can't run what he can't touch. Suter counters with doing anything and everything he can to get his hands on the ball and then running with it.

"My stats aren't that good because I don't take any fair catches," he said. "I'll go for that one yard just to give us better field position."

Suter says he accepts the consequences of being good at what he does. It doesn't mean he has to like it though.

"I find myself running over to the other side of the field, screaming 'C'mon you guys. Kick me the ball,' or something like that, only louder and probably using different words," he said. "I'm competitive. I want the ball in my hands."

The competitiveness doesn't come without a price. Suter is missing the cartilage in both of his knees. Maryland has nursed his situation, hoping to keep one of their biggest weapons healthy for the entire season.

"My knees have been good. I got a (cortisone) shot at the beginning of the year but it might be wearing off now," Suter said. "I haven't been practicing more than two days a week, but I put in three days in a row and it got some swelling."

Suter's knee problems may have opened a new career door for him.

"It was achy. I could tell you when it's going to rain," he said. "If I wake up and wonder why my knee is aching, I can go to the window and look outside and it's usually raining."

The physical problems fail to make Suter a fair weather player, though.

"I only know one way to play and I want to play until I can't do it anymore," Suter said. "I'm willing to squeeze everything out that I can. You see old guys like Emmitt Smith out there and think they should retire, but I know what they are feeling."

When it comes to leaving football, don't look for Steve Suter to be raising his hand there, either.

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