One morning about a week before Dartmouth's football season opener with UMass, a 5' 11", 160-pound right halfback from the soccer team went out to the practice field with Big Green kicking coach Jake Crouthamel to try his hand at field goals.
After hitting ten straight from inside the 30, he moved back a bit and drilled a 57-yard attempt through the middle of the uprights.
"I guess he was impressed," Dartmouth place-kicker Wayne Pirmann said Wednesday night,
Apparently so. After witnessing Pirmann's exhibition, Crouthamel bluntly announced, "You're our place-kicker." The next Saturday, Wayne Pirmann pulled on a football uniform for the first time in his life and, indeed, became just that.
Since his debut against UMass, Pirmann has connected on 18 of 30 extra points and has yet to miss a field goal. With 24 points, he is the team's second leading scorer behind halfback John Short-no mean accomplishment considering that Dartmouth leads the nation in scoring with a 39.9-point per game average.
Back at the Ranch
At the same time, the junior from Philadelphia is second in scoring on the soccer team with goals against Middlebury and Amherst.
Pirmann's development into a first-rate kicker solved one of the few problems Dartmouth coach Bob Blackman faced when he assembled his squad in early September.
Until Pirmann's arrival, Russ Adams was delegated with the kicking duties. When Adams missed five of seven attempts in the Indians' scrimmage with the University of Vermont. Blackman and his staff made no secret of their consternation.
Word filtered around to Ripley Hall, where Pirmann lives, and one day he asked one of the football managers who lives in the same dorm if he might try out.
The next morning, Pirmann was on the practice field and the Dartmouth coaches were all smiles.
At first, there was some doubt as to how well Pirmann would perform under game conditions. His two field goals of 32 and 34 yards squelched those doubts once and for all.
Singleness of Purpose
"My job is to get the ball through the uprights," Pirmann said Wednesday. "I haven't really noticed the pressure so far."
Of course, Dartmouth has mauled its first four opponents and Pirmann has yet to be in a win-or-lose situation. "I don't worry about that," he mused, "because I seriously don't anticipate any of our games being that close."
Perhaps. But it is not difficult to recall the Harvard-Dartmouth game of three years ago when Indian placekicker Pete Donovan scored a field goal in the last ten seconds to salvage a 23-21 victory.
That incident was particularly painful for the Crimson because Donovan missed on his first attempt from 25 yards. But an offside penalty gave Donovan another opportunity and this time he didn't miss.
Distancle doesn't bother Pirmann. "Whether it's outside the 30 or not doesn't matter to me," he said. "If it goes, it goes."
His teammates' attitude toward his kicking may not be so casual in a tight situation, but for the moment he says, "They'd rather have me than not have me."
Pirmann is involved in a bare minimum of contact. The only time an opposing lineman broke through on an extra point this year, Pirmann "gave him a little nudge."
Because he has no football experience, he yields to Adams on kickoffs. "I don't know the first thing aboutspying, He has field a complaint with tackling," Pirmann admitted.
There is one thing certain in Pirmann's mind, though-he is a soccer player first. He practices with the soccer team daily, then goes to the football practice field to kick for about 15 minutes.
At the outset, Pirmann discussed his gridiron moonlighting with soccer coach George Beim, and Beim gave him his blessings. If it were a choice between soccer and football, however, Pirmann would not hesitate to abandon football.
There has already been one conflict this year when the soccer team was playing Amherst in Hanover and the football team was away at Holy Cross.
Fly Me to New Haven
Blackman solved that problem by flying Pirmann to Holy Cross after the soccer game, in a private plane, and he will use the same method for transporting him to a slightly more important contest on Oct. 31 in New Haven.
The opponent that day is Yale, and the outcome will probably decide the Ivy championship. Dartmouth will surely be going for touchdowns on fourth downs in the first quarter because Pinmann will not arrive until midway through the second period.
This crucial venture generates all sorts of wild fantasies a la Frank Merriweather. The scenario has to emerge of a packed Yale Bowl, a tie game in the final minute of play and Wayne Pirmann running out of the locker room after being snowbound in Hanover for two hours.
Pirmann kicks a field goal, Dartmouth wins the game and the Ivy championship. "I don't have nightmares about that kind of thing," Pirmann said Wednesday. "But it would be pretty cool."