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Phase 2 of the Hank Goebel Project : Former Basketball Player Tries Out as Tackle With Rams

July 19, 1986|JIM McCURDIE | Times Staff Writer

There's a word for guys like Hank Goebel . . . guys who football coaches hope will get bigger, stronger and better with the passing of time and the lifting of weights. It's a word that's been used to describe Goebel since he first lumbered onto the practice field at Cal State Fullerton four years ago.


Phase 1 of the Hank Goebel Project was a success. In four years as a Titan, Goebel went from an occasionally awkward, 215-pound basketball player to a 270-pound offensive tackle and co-captain with a football future.

And now, Phase 2.

Goebel, the eighth-round draft choice of the Rams and 219th player chosen overall, has spent the past week in rookie camp at Rams Park, where he's been hearing that word again.

"Yeah, I look at this as the same kind of thing," Goebel said after an afternoon workout. "I'm being termed a project here and I was termed a project at Fullerton. And I did all right there."

Of course, if you're going to be a project, it doesn't hurt to be high-rise. Goebel attracted the attention of Fullerton Coach Gene Murphy and his staff while playing basketball at Corona del Mar High School. He had played tight end for the Sea Kings during his senior year, but had long considered basketball his best sport.

"I was pretty much a basketball-playing tight end," Goebel said. "I was just playing football because I wanted to catch the ball and score touchdowns."

But by the end of his senior basketball season, it became apparent that he had a better future on the football field than in the gym. The Fullerton coaches saw a 6-6, 215-pound frame with good potential for growth, and offered Goebel a scholarship.

Basketball recruiters weren't exactly beating a path to Goebel's door. There was little demand for a self-described "very power forward" with limited jumping and shooting ability.

So, when Goebel sat down with Jack Errion, then the Corona del Mar basketball coach, after the season to discuss Fullerton's offer, he was prepared for what Errion had to say.

"He said, 'Take the scholarship.' " Phase 1 began. Goebel left catching passes and scoring touchdowns to begin concentrating on throwing blocks and gaining weight. The latter made the former much easier.

Taking football seriously meant Goebel would have to develop confidence in his ability to move people. This, he said, took time. "The toughest thing was just convincing myself that I wasn't going to get beat by one person--that when I went out on the field, no matter how big the guy across from me was, I would hold my own."

There were some moments of doubt. Injuries to front-line players forced Goebel to make his first start three games into his freshman season, when he still looked more like a high school forward than a college tackle.

"We would have loved to have redshirted Hank," Murphy said, "but we had to play him. He took a whoppin' in that game, but he hung in there. We knew then that we had something.

"We just waited for Hank, and he grew into his body," Murphy said. "He did nothing except get better and better and better."

Not to mention bigger and bigger. Goebel is listed on the Rams' preseason roster at 6-7 and 270, but says he weighs closer to 290. He's already realized, though, that it will take more than being big to make Phase 2 of The Project a success.

"My senior year (at Fullerton), I could manhandle people," he said. "But I walk into the weight room here and say, 'Hey, some of these guys are the same size as me.' "

The numbers are not in Goebel's favor in his attempt to make a name--and claim a position--for himself with the Rams this summer. Mike Schad, the team's No. 1 draft choice, is, like Goebel, an offensive tackle. Mike Shiner, a second-year tackle out of Notre Dame, is even bigger than Goebel at 6-8 and 285. And there are veterans like Jackie Slater and Irv Pankey to contend with. All of which makes it a little rough to be a project.

"I know where I stand . . . an eighth-round pick and I've got a No. 1 pick ahead of me," Goebel said. "But I try not to let that bother me. I feel like I've got just as good a chance as anybody else.

"The draft is dollars and cents, but when you get on the field, it's how you play that matters."

Ram Coach John Robinson said Goebel is in a position where he needs to show improvement from one practice to the next. So far, he likes what he has seen.

"I think all the things we hoped for are there," Robinson said. "It looks to me like he tries hard, and I think he's a tough guy. He still has some growing to do to get into that body, but as he gains strength, I think he'll have a great future."

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