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And Now It's Team Handball for Oxy Quarterback : 'Father Flaherty' Found His Calling in Football

April 11, 1985|JOE RESNICK

Father Flaherty may have a nice ring to it, but Tim Flaherty just didn't have the calling. After some heavy soul-searching, he chose passing over preaching.

The 25-year-old Occidental College junior, who is working toward his bachelor's degree in psychology, is finished with college football now, after using up his NCAA eligibility while attending St. John's Seminary in Camarillo, Moorpark Junior College and Occidental.

But there is another athletic pursuit to replace football--team handball--and Flaherty would love to make the U. S. national team.

Flaherty was a quarterback who didn't play the position until he got to Moorpark. After parochial school he went to Chaminade for the ninth grade and then entered Queen of Angels, a Roman Catholic seminary. With his Catholic upbringing, he got to meet a number of priests who visited his home, and their life appealed to him. He entered St. John's to study the priesthood but gave up the idea after two years because of other interests that he wasn't prepared to sacrifice.

Goal: 'Work With People'

"I'd still be in there now, but I needed to get out and work with people," said Flaherty, who worked at the Boys' and Girls' Club in Simi Valley for 2 1/2 years before coming to Occidental. He eventually wants to do social work. "I enjoy sports a lot and I enjoy being with people.

"But it wasn't just football. I didn't feel my talents were be used to the best ability. I didn't want to go through the priesthood without checking out these other things."

Football, indeed, was one of them. He hadn't touched a football in a game situation until he got to Chaminade as a high school sophomore. He began last season as Occidental's second-string quarterback behind Pat Guthrie because, as Coach Dale Widolff recalled, "he didn't have a whole lot of experience and he was pretty raw."

Halfway through the season's third game, the Occidental coach decided his offense was sagging and inserted the 6-3, 195-pound Flaherty, who threw four touchdown passes over a four-week period. The Tigers continued undefeated with Flaherty in the lineup, but Guthrie took over for good in the second half of the sixth game and threw three touchdown passes to regain his starting status for the rest of the season.

Inexperience Hurt

"He had good tools, but the inexperience hurt him more than anything else," Widolff said. "He has great intangibles. He's a tremendous leader and the kids really like him, which is important at that position."

The Tigers finished the regular season 10-0 but lost their NCAA Division III Western Regional playoff game, 43-42, to Central College of Iowa on a failed two-point conversion attempt in the final minute of a game Flaherty spent entirely on the bench.

Assistant Coach?

Although Flaherty cannot play football for him next fall, Widolff is planning to have him contribute as an assistant coach during his senior year. Flaherty, however, isn't sure of his plans.

"A number of people here said I should do it and I'm still considering it," he said recently during an informal team handball demonstration in the gym at Occidental, where he is trying to organize a club handball team. "It's up in the air. I may stay here because I'd like to finish my education--or I may go to Colorado Springs."

Flaherty referred to the site of the Olympic training center where he went last December to try out for Coach Javier Garcia Cuesta's U. S. national handball team. Only nine players, including Joe Storey, Mike Leonard, Rod Oshita, Greg Morava and Steve Goss, were left from the team that finished ninth among 12 teams in last summer's Olympics with a 1-4-1 record. Flaherty, who worked at the Olympic team handball events as a youth venue coordinator, traveled to Colorado to try out for one of the remaining five positions on the current roster and made it as an alternate.

He was one of four substitutes to accompany the 12-player team on its recent two-week trip to Norway for the Men's B World Team Handball Championships, which East Germany won. After four plane rides and a bus ride totaling 24 hours, he didn't dress for any of the team's seven games. Instead, he worked with the camera crew that videotaped each game of the U. S. team's trip.

Hooked on Handball

"From what the coaches tell me, we're still a little way behind the East Germans, but we've reached a point where we're not getting blown out anymore," said Flaherty, who will join the team in Germany two months from now for the student world championships. In August, the national team will start making preparations for the 1988 Olympics and Flaherty is hoping to get an invitation to try out again.

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