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Catching Up With ... Maryland quarterback Alan Pastrana

Alan Pastrana's 1966 season at Maryland is legend.

Nearly half a century later, Alan Pastrana's feats at Maryland in 1966 remain legend. That spring, as a sophomore, he played lacrosse and was a first-team All-American. That fall, as the Terps' quarterback, he passed for 17 touchdowns to set an Atlantic Coast Conference record.

It was the peak of his athletic career. Injuries nagged Pastrana, of Annapolis, for the rest of his college days and the two years he spent in the NFL. Don't think he's bitter about what might have been, though, had his legs held up and concussions not rattled his head.

"My knee got torn up during spring football in 1967, and I sat out the whole season," said Pastrana, 70. "It's the best thing that could have happened. I stayed at Maryland for an extra year-and-a-half and got my degree. I remember thinking, 'Alan, you had trouble scoring 750 on your SATs, but now you can actually graduate from college.'"

The degree served him well. Pastrana went on to earn a master's and became associate professor of physical education at Anne Arundel Community College, where he taught for 40 years and coached three sports before retiring in 2012. But he also treasures the hefty three-foot scrapbook that chronicles his playing days from Annapolis High, where he captained the football, wrestling and lacrosse teams to undefeated seasons.

In College Park, Pastrana played linebacker until Lou Saban came as coach in 1966. That spring, the pass-minded Saban put Pastrana under center, then took the Terps by surprise.

"Lou said, 'How much fun can spring practice be?' and told us all, during those 20 days of football, to go play another sport," Pastrana said. "I picked lacrosse. When the Saturday morning football scrimmages were over I would run to the dining hall, grab some lunch and come back with my ankles still taped to play in lacrosse games.

"I'd been goalie at Annapolis but Maryland put me on defense, where I'd never played. I guess most of the returnees flunked out so it was easy to be first string. The coaches made it simple for me, saying, 'Pastrana, guard so-and-so, cut him off and don't allow him to touch the ball' — and that's exactly what I did. I was usually the one who cleared the ball, and I think that's how I got noticed."

The Terps went 9-1 and Pastrana became the first sophomore defenseman in college history to be named a first-team All American.

That fall, in his second game at quarterback, Pastrana passed for three touchdowns and ran for another in a 34-7 rout of Wake Forest. Two weeks later, he rallied Maryland to a 21-19 upset of Duke. He threw for two scores in a 14-2 win over South Carolina and three more in a 24-21 loss to North Carolina State. Though the Terps finished 4-6, Pastrana finished with 1,499 passing yards and a quarterback rating of 131.3.

The bum knee sidelined him in 1967 and Pastrana was never the same. Still, he was drafted by Denver (11th round) and reunited with Saban, the Broncos coach, who remembered his stellar, if brief, college career.

"I got a $5,000 bonus and $15,000 more for making the team," Pastana said. "I thought I was flying high. I bought some property in Annapolis that I'm still living on."

As a second-year pro, he was twice knocked out cold — once in a preseason game against the Baltimore Colts — and retired at 26 years old.

"I wasn't that good and I had something else I could do — teach," he said. Married 45 years, Pastrana plays pick-up games in the back yard with his five grandsons, who call him "Coach Pop."

"I throw underhanded now," he confessed. "My main job is to make sure they don't run into (his wife) Ya Ya's flower beds."

He follows the career of his nephew, Travis Pastrana, a motocross star and stunt performer. He also consults at the concussion clinic of an area medical facility.

"Our concern is to protect children's brains," Pastrana said. "They shouldn't play tackle football until high school. The heavy helmets on their skinny little necks give a false sense of security. They need to mature a bit before putting on this warrior equipment."

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MikeKlingaman

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