To Maryland football fans he was "The Rifleman," a blond quarterback with a slingshot arm who broke school passing records and led the Terps to signature wins in the 1960s. How hard did Dick Shiner throw? Once, in practice, his peg struck a teammate in the helmet and knocked him out. Another time, in the pros, he broke a receiver's two fingers.
"Stopping his passes is like trying to stop a missile with a dirty dish towel," North Carolina coach Jim Hickey said in 1962 after Shiner had shredded the Tar Heels.
The years have softened his tosses.
"Fifteen yards, that's my limit now," said Shiner, 71. "My mind says I can fire it, but my body says absolutely not. Actually, I can throw the ball further behind my back than straight ahead because I don't have to bend as much."
Last week he watched the Terps' game in Byrd Stadium, site of Shiner's biggest triumphs: a 21-17 victory over Penn State in 1961 and, two years later, a 21-14 upset of Air Force.
Then a 19-year-old sophomore making his first start at homecoming, Shiner passed for three touchdowns to defeat the Nittany Lions. He remains the only Maryland quarterback to beat Penn State in the 37-year history of the series, which resumes next season after a 20-year hiatus when the Terps join the Big Ten.
Shiner can't wait; he wants company in the record books. "Nobody will feel better than me when [the Terps] beat Penn State again," the Lebanon (Pa.) native said.
Against Air Force, a national power in 1963, Shiner led a comeback that rocked College Park. Trailing 14-0 at halftime, Maryland won the game on a 36-yard pass from Shiner to Darryl Hill as time expired.
The crowd of 31,000 went nuts.
"See, we were 0-4 and Air Force had just beaten Nebraska," which would win the Orange Bowl that year, Shiner said. "So when I hit Darryl with a bullet on a deep cross, and he hit the end zone, the whole place exploded. They had to clear all of the fans off the field for us to kick the extra point."
To celebrate, he said, "we all went to Howard Johnson's, on Route 1, where they served hot dogs on toasted buns. They were great."
Drafted by the Washington Redskins, Shiner spent 11 years in the NFL and played for six clubs, mostly as a reserve. Nagged by injuries much of his career, he became a starter in Pittsburgh in 1968, passing for 1,856 yards and 18 touchdowns for the lowly (2-11-1) Steelers.
In a 41-7 loss to the Colts, Shiner threw for a score but had two interceptions returned for touchdowns. Against San Francisco, a 45-28 defeat, he tied a Pittsburgh record with four touchdown passes. He still says it was six.
"They didn't count the two I threw to the 49ers," he said.
His last appearance came in 1974 when, as New England's backup, he entered in the third quarter with a 35-3 lead against the Colts. Shiner drove the Patriots 80yards for a touchdown, then took himself out of the game.
"I wanted [third-string QB] Neil Graff to get experience," he said. "Neil was a good kid, and I knew my time in the NFL was coming to an end."
Married and the father of three, Shiner lives in Palmyra, Pa., five miles from Gary Collins, his favorite receiver at Maryland, who later starred for the Cleveland Browns. Retired after 20 years in the copier business, Shiner now works as an assistant football coach in the area, most recently at Hershey High.
"When kids ask what it was like, playing in the pros, I tell them that there are levels of 'good' in the NFL and that I was someplace in the middle, which is why I lasted 11 years," he said. "There, and in college, I competed against the best players who walked onto the field at that time.
"I look back and say to myself, 'Could you have been better?' Sure. But was I good enough to be there? Absolutely."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun