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Catching Up With ... Roger Shoals, ex-Maryland and NFL tackle

Former Maryland offensive tackle Roger Shoals now sells cars in Kutztown, Pa.

As an offensive tackle for Maryland's football team, Roger Shoals gouged out holes wide enough to drive a Cadillac through. Now, the former Terp star sells the cars.

"Retire? I like working," said Shoals, 76, part-owner of a Cadillac-Buick dealership in Kutztown, Pa. "I'll quit when I'm in a box."

It has been 53 years since he first suited up for the Terps, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound pillar who'd go on to play nine years in the NFL. Born in Baltimore, Shoals helped Maryland to three winning seasons, including victories in 1961 over Syracuse (then ranked No. 7) and Penn State. Despite a badly sprained ankle, Shoals played what coach Tom Nugent called a "superior" game in that 21-17 win over the Nittany Lions — the Terps' only success in their 38-year rivalry until their 20-19 victory in November.

Still, those were puzzling times at Maryland, which failed to live up to expectations despite a core of talent. Shoals played alongside 11 other Terps chosen in the NFL draft, including receiver Gary Collins, lineman Walter Rock, quarterback Dick Shiner and running back Tom Brown. Yet the team lost 11 of 30 games and never went to a bowl game.

"We had good teams, but Coach Nugent did not get the respect that a head coach deserved. He antagonized guys," Shoals said. "He couldn't instill trust — and you've got to trust your coach."

Shoals also wrestled, earning an Atlantic Coast Conference championship in 1961 despite never having set foot on a mat until college. Why wrestle?

"My wife worked on campus and we had one car, so when my classes were done I'd hang around Cole Field House until 5 o'clock waiting for her to pick me up," Shoals said. "The coach, Sully Krouse, said, 'Why don't you work out with us?' The next thing I knew, I was wrestling heavyweight.

"I loved it. The hard work kept me in shape and improved my quickness for football. The team rode to away matches in three station wagons, and I always went with the coach and trainer because the guys in the other cars wore rubber suits and had the heaters on full blast, trying to make weight. When we stopped for gas, I felt all of their eyes on me when I went to the Coke machine."

Drafted by Cleveland, Shoals spent two seasons with the Browns. In 1964, he scored his first and only touchdown on the opening kickoff in a game against Philadelphia.

"Timmy Brown [the Eagles' kick returner] lost the ball in the sun and fumbled. I jumped on it, but the ball squirted out. Then somebody else did the same," Shoals said. "We kept advancing the ball, by squirts, to the end zone where I fell on it for good. What a dream."

Cleveland advanced to the 1964 title game against the favored Colts and won, 27-0.

"That was heaven," said Shoals, who'd lived in Catonsville and attended St. Mark School as a child before his family moved to Connecticut. "Then the league sent us our [championship] rings. I still wear mine all the time, even though people look at this old man and think, 'What the hell is he doing with a diamond?'"

Traded to Detroit in 1965, Shoals became a fixture on a Lions team that made the playoffs in 1970 before losing to the Dallas Cowboys, whom the Colts would defeat in Super Bowl V. In his office, at home in Gladwyne, Pa., sits a treasured game ball given to Shoals after a Detroit victory over Chicago.

"I shut out [Bears Hall of Fame defensive end] Doug Atkins that day," he said. "Our quarterbacks didn't get sacked once."

Dealt to Denver in 1971, Shoals played one year with the Broncos and retired to work for a paper company, of which he is now vice president. That job, and the car dealership, keep him busy. Married 55 years, he has two children, four grandchildren and a back that's still bothersome despite six surgeries to date.

"I can't play golf anymore, but that's a good thing because I was terrible at it," he said.

He does fish on his 17-foot whaler, off New Jersey, for tuna. And Shoals has followed Maryland's recent football success, and its baptism in the Big Ten, with interest.

"I like the coach [Randy Edsall]. I like his demeanor," he said. "Personally, I thought going into the Big Ten would be suicide. But you can't discount the dilution of talent in college football today."

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MikeKlingaman

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