Catching Up With ... Jack Scarbath

Jack Scarbath is surrounded by girls in Maryland's Delta Gamma sorority house in a 1952 photo. Lynn Brown, pictured just above him, has now been his wife for 62 years.

The blond hair has grayed and Jack Scarbath wears glasses now. Remember the laser arm that Maryland's football team rode to fame more than 60 years ago?

"I hardly throw at all now, and when I do, the ball sure doesn't go as far as it once did," the famed Terps quarterback said.


Who'd expect more of a man who's 84?

"It's been a great life," said Scarbath, a Poly grad whose name still resonates in College Park. No Maryland player has ever won the Heisman Trophy, but Scarbath came close, finishing second in 1952.


His story is pure Hollywood: unsung athlete goes to college, becomes an All-American, leads his team to an upset bowl victory and weds the prettiest cheerleader on campus.

Married 62 years, Scarbath and his wife, Lynn, live on a 100-acre farm in Rising Sun. For 54 years, they've attended every Maryland home football game at Byrd Stadium, which was new when Scarbath scored the first touchdown there on Sept. 30, 1950.

"It was an option play against Navy. I took off around the left side for 21 yards," he said. Then a sophomore, Scarbath also threw two touchdown passes in the Terps' 35-21 win. The following week, unranked Maryland scored a 34-7 upset at No. 2 Michigan State.

"That was the turning point," Scarbath said. The Terps went 22 straight games without defeat behind the 6-foot-1, 195-pound passer from Hamilton whose deceptive fakes and slick ball-handing led Maryland to national acclaim.

Scarbath's resume was thin. He'd come from nowhere, a so-so quarterback at Poly whose team had no football field of its own and had lost to archrival City three straight years.

"What I recall are the games against Loyola," he said. "Jimmy Curran, who lived on our block, played tackle for them. Every Saturday on our way to the movies at the Cameo Theater, Jimmy and I would stop at a pickle factory on Grindon Lane and buy three pickles for a dime. The week before the Poly-Loyola game, we'd bet on the outcome. The loser had to buy the pickles."

The Terps took interest in Scarbath and, in 1949, offered him a tryout — then a second, then a third.

"Evidently it wasn't going well," he said. "Finally, they had me run the option play with head coach [Jim] Tatum playing defensive end. I figured I hadn't done too well when he'd been standing up, so this time I'd knock him down. After I lateraled the ball, I put my shoulder into coach, who weighed about 250, and he fell over.


"I thought I'd get fired. But when [Tatum] got up he said, 'That's the way to do it.' And I got my scholarship."

To beef up, he helped build Byrd Stadium, doing construction work the summer before his freshman year.

"For three months, I raked the cement that became the steps inside the place," he said. "What I got were muscles and money."

Scarbath quarterbacked a Maryland team comprised of youngsters like himself and veterans who'd served in World War II. Riding herd over the latter seemed a daunting task.

"I remember going into the team shower for the first time and seeing one guy who'd been shot twice in the side; his scars were very apparent," he said. "Another one had a bayonet scar on his left thigh. I thought, holy smokes, how am I going to command these men in a huddle after what they've been through? Are they going to listen or what?"

The 1950 team went 7-2-1. The Terps followed that with a 10-0 season, a No. 3 ranking and a 28-13 Sugar Bowl victory over Tennessee's national champions. That day, Scarbath completed his first six passes and rushed for a touchdown to end the Vols' 20-game winning streak. Afterward, he crowed that the Sugar Bowl was "like a great big Poly-City game."


Few knew how Scarbath had spent the night before.

"Coach Tatum had come to me and said, 'We're roommates tonight.' I thought, uh, what did I do? I took the top bunk and he had the bottom, and he held a coaching clinic right there, asking me what I would do on such-and-such a play. He kept at it until I fell asleep. It worked."

His senior year, Maryland won seven straight before losing two, which likely cost him the Heisman that went instead to Oklahoma running back Billy Vessels. A 1952 first-team All American, Scarbath passed for 10 touchdowns and 1,149 yards while rushing for 237 more.

He struggled in the pros. The third player picked in the NFL draft, Scarbath shuffled between the Washington Redskins, Baltimore Colts, Ottawa Rough Riders (Canadian Football League) and Pittsburgh Steelers before retiring in 1956 with a broken thumb.

"I wasn't good enough," he said. "No pro team was using the Split-T offense that we'd run at Maryland. It was hard to make the transition, and I took my lumps. I left my teeth in some of the best stadiums in the country."

An industrial engineering major, he started a business selling abrasive materials and retired in 1992. Nowadays he's a celebrated artist, carving waterfowl of all shapes and sizes and selling each for as much as $35,000. That's more than he made playing three years in the NFL.


In his living room is a favorite piece showing 16 quail breaking from a covey. The 30-inch carving took 2,000 hours to complete.

Where does he find the patience?

"Have you ever stood under center and looked at a defense?" Scarbath said. "You better have patience."