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The football center is a little like an airline pilot and a lot like a garbage man. Only failure attracts attention; success passes unnoticed.
Even the great centers have trudged anonomously. Stolid, meaty behemouths, their senses grow dulled by thousands of slaps to the head, delivered in the split-second of vulnerability while they shovel the ball to the quarterback.
Dave Scheper is a center, but that never fooled anyone. What Warren Beatty did for hairdressers in Shampoo, this man might do for the gentlemen with the high numbers who spend their week-end afternoons in that most inelegant of positions.
Some Have It
Scheper says he's always been "naturally verbal" and a conversation with him proves the comment to be a rare understatement. The voices--sometimes his own, sometimes The Harvard Booster, sometimes the broadcaster come and go in a flash.
In fact, chances are that more people know Scheper the Broadcaster than Scheper the Center. He's the voice of Harvard basketball for WHRB and Marc Sobil, the station's sports director, says "everyone knows he's our best sports-caster."
Returning to the gridiron for his third year on the Harvard varsity, Scheper's football prowess earns similar praise from his football teamates and coaches. Offensive line coach Dick Corbin says, "He's a leader on and off the field. Scheper's strength is his ability to block bigger people," the coach adds and teammates agree.
Don't Like Them Tall People
Bigger people than Scheper is about as selective a group as the Omaha telephone directory. At 5-ft. 10-in., he has probably not met a defensive lineman his size or smaller since high school. With a vocabulary peppered with phrases like "test of will" and "if we're inspired enough," it's clear his height--or lack of it--has never really bothered him.
"I get pretty enthusiastic about playing college football." Scheper says, but his ardor for the college football of another academic institution matches, if not surpasses his dedication to the home team.
Notre Dame. "Don't call it a fetish. Call it a passion," he says, though either description may fit. An early childhood in Indianapolis --with a diehard Irish fan for a father--served as the catalyst, and his devotion survived a move that might have left an average fan with split sympathies.
A Long, Long Time Ago...
Scheper recalls the exact day when his family left Indiana for Northridge, Calif.--the heart of USC country. It was Nov. 30, 1968, when the Irish and Trojans battled to a 21-21 tie.
Did he want to play football at Notre Dame?
"Of course," he says, "But when it came time for recruiting, Dan Divine wasn't in the market for five-ten, 210-lb. centers." A pause. "Well," he adds, totally serious, "he let a prize nugget get away."
Two prize nuggets, really. This season, brother Paul Scheper, a sophomore, joined Dave on the Harvard varsity. Like his brother, a conquest of super-recruiter Francis P. Locke '33, Paul moved up from fifth string running back at the start of the season to making the traveling squad. Dave's pride in his brother's achievements does not, however, extend to Paul's defection from the ranks of Notre Dame fans.
Dave feels his close relationship with his brother is typical of the close spirit of the entire team. "I just love our team. Our seniors are a very small exclusive group and we're accessible to the rest of the team." he says. "We'll be a team to remember if we can be inspired every week."
The job of maintaining such an attitude lies with coach Restic, Scheper feels. "I love him," Scheper says, repeating a phrase that filters into his speech regularly. "He's much looser, more comfortable now than he's been in the last two years."
On Restic's controversial Multiflex, the offensive system by which Harvard lives and dies, Scheper looks on the bright side. "It's a beautiful offense when it's run well. The total flexibility of it is what's great. I appreciate it more each year."
But Scheper says what impresses him most about Restic--and it is a talent Scheper values greatly--is the coach's ability to communicate. In a recent chalk session, Scheper says, Restic "looked at us and said, 'if you do this right, it will work 100 per cent of the time,' and in that room you could have picked up the confidence in your hand."
Scheper began communicating back in Pony League baseball, when he would take over the loud speaker and broadcast the games. He moved up to a videotape machine in high school, and then, while warming the bench sophomore year, he and fullback Al Altieri would do play-by-plays from the sidelines.
After another year doing basketball on WHRB, Scheper might give a broadcasting career a try, but he's not making any committments. Another possibility is Law school. To the suprise of no one, one school seems to attract Scheper more than any other: Notre Dame.
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