Affholter Is About Ready to Kick In at USC : He's Praying to Be on the Receiving End, Not the Pointy End, of Aloha Bowl Scoring

December 28, 1985|STEVE HENSON | Times Staff Writer

The guy who set a national high school record in 1982 by kicking a 64-yard field goal will get his first opportunity to score college points today when USC meets Alabama in the Aloha Bowl.

But if he scores, it'll be worth six points. He's playing split end, not kicker.

Erik Affholter, who hit the 64-yarder and seven other field goals of more than 40 yards for Oak Park High in Agoura Hills, probably will make his first start for the Trojans. No one who knew him in high school is surprised that he is breaking into the lineup as a receiver.

If he makes the kind of impression at USC he did at Oak Park, he will give new meaning to the term, "Trojan Horse."

Affholter scored 33 touchdowns, kicked 21 field goals and booted extra points with assembly-line regularity in leading Oak Park to two Tri-Valley League titles. After playing split end as a sophomore and junior, he was moved to tailback his senior year and responded by gaining more than 100 yards rushing nine straight times.

He caught eight touchdown passes the first three games of his junior season, and when he was forced to play defensive back as well as wide receiver because of injuries to teammates, he intercepted seven passes in three games.

In all, Affholter made 21 of 28 field-goal attempts, caught 101 passes for 1,817 yards, gained 1,386 yards rushing and scored 323 points.

"Erik could run, catch and kick at an All-America level," Oak Park Athletic Director Mark Jacobs said. Affholter, in fact, was named a high school All-American by USA Today as a junior.

The record field goal came, ironically, during Oak Park's only regular-season loss. The kick, which hit near the top of the left upright before careening through, was aided by a strong Santa Ana wind that had helped spread a fire the week before from Simi Valley to the Pacific Ocean.

But the record, which was broken last season on a 68-yarder by Dirk Borgognone of Reno High, was not a fluke.

"Erik's most memorable achievement that day was not the field goal," insisted Fred Yamano, who was head coach at Oak Park when Affholter was there. "A few minutes earlier, he kicked off and the ball sailed through the top of the uprights 70 yards away."

At Carpinteria in 1983, Affholter's 33-yard field goal landed on the head of the homecoming queen, who was sitting in a car waiting to be paraded around the stadium. She was knocked out, according to Yamano, who didn't say if she revived in time for the prom.

"Another time he put one onto the Glendale Freeway at Pater Noster," Yamano recalled. "Erik nearly put that ball into orbit."

Most kickers are an adjunct to their team, tolerated only because they fill a need. Kickers usually stand on the sidelines with the pained expressions of people who are somehow different than everyone else.

Secretly, they hate it when huge, sweaty linemen squeeze their breath away with bear hugs after a successful kick. But it is better than the reaction to a miss, so kickers tolerate the hugs.

Affholter was the antithesis of an ostracized kicking specialist at Oak Park and he may start at two positions before he's through at USC. In a couple years, you might see Affholter catch a pass with time running out to get the Trojans into field-goal position, then make the kick to win a game.

Affholter (6-0, 190) believes he can do it and USC Coach Ted Tollner says he'll get the chance.

"Erik is a better receiver than we expected when we recruited him," Tollner said. "He has the ability to be the best at both spots if he can handle it from a physical standpoint. I believe he can, and he would be unique because there aren't many these days who start at two positions."

Said Affholter: "If I'm established as a receiver, the kicking will come easy. It comes really natural to me."

After being red-shirted last season, Affholter was narrowly out-kicked in training camp this season by junior Don Shafer. At split end, he played behind senior Hank Norman, the Trojans' all-time leading receiver, and hasn't caught a pass.

Norman was dismissed from the team last week for personal reasons, and Affholter will split time at split end today with sophomore Ken Henry.

Affholter must have felt a twinge of deja vu at the news about Norman.

The week of the Southern Section semifinals his senior year at Oak Park, Affholter and four teammates were placed on disciplinary athletic suspension. The Eagles, who had won eight straight games, were waxed by Rio Mesa, 44-0, without Affholter.

"It is weird that my first start at USC is under these circumstances," Affholter said. "But I've matured 100% since high school and don't think too much about what happened then."

Jacobs and Yamano, who was football coach when Affholter played for the Eagles, sound like they take lessons in tact from Tollner. Like the Trojan coach, neither would state the specific reason their players were suspended.

"It's in the past," Jacobs said. "Erik has more important things ahead."

Affholter was shocked by Norman's dismissal.

"Hank was voted team captain by the players," he said. "That tells you the respect and admiration he had from his teammates.

"It does make you think, though. Hank and I are pretty good buddies. He showed me the ropes. He's a great player to learn from."

Affholter will have his first chance to put that knowledge to use today.

Los Angeles Times Articles