MIAMI — Jack Trudeau, rookie quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, had never played in a National Football League game and wasn't likely to very soon unless something happened to the starter, Gary Hogeboom.
Sunday something happened.
On a balmy day in Florida, while Trudeau was enjoying himself, minding his own business and his clipboard, Hogeboom suffered a shoulder separation in the third quarter of the Colts' 30-10 loss to the Dolphins.
Trudeau had to grow up awfully fast.
"It's time to play," Trudeau said after the game. "I can't be a rookie anymore."
Trudeau will direct the winless Colts against the unbeaten Rams in the Hoosier Dome next Sunday. After that, he'll face the New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers--playoff teams all. Sometimes they break you in fast in this league.
The Colts were just starting to build their offense around Hogeboom, who put in six unsatisfying seasons at Dallas before the Cowboys traded him to the Colts the day before the draft last spring. The clubs exchanged second-round choices in the deal, and the Colts picked Trudeau with theirs, hopefully insuring their quarterback future for years.
Despite last week's 33-3 opening loss at New England, things seemed to be coming along early in Sunday's game before 51,848 spectators in the Orange Bowl. Hogeboom drove the Colts 80 yards with the opening kickoff to a 7-0 lead over a team that many consider to be a Super Bowl contender, and the Colts' defense had even forced the Dolphins to punt a couple of times.
But then, like a cheap suit that looks good until you wear it a while, the Colts started to come apart at the seams. Dolphin quarterback Dan Marino attacked their soft zone defense like a dart board, and rookie James Pruitt returned a punt 71 yards for a touchdown. It was 20-10 by halftime.
Lorenzo Hampton's second touchdown run from 21 yards out made it at 27-10 early in the second half before Fuad Reveiz' second field goal closed the scoring minutes later.
For the Colts, it was another week, another loss. But Sunday, it will be another quarterback because Hogeboom chose to play hero.
He was injured on a freak play. When running back Albert Bentley hit a pile at right tackle, he fumbled and the ball rolled into the backfield. Hogeboom scooped it up and ran 50 yards down the right sideline until Dolphin safety Lyle Blackwood caught him at the 25.
Hogeboom got up slowly and removed his helmet, then returned to the huddle and handed off to Randy McMillan on the next play before leaving the game.
"When I tried moving it (the shoulder) I could feel it clicking," he said. "Then when I handed off I knew something was wrong."
Coach Rod Dowhower said, "To be quite honest, Gary should have run out of bounds."
Hogeboom, his right arm strapped tightly to his body, said, "I'll tell you what, I never thought about it. That's the way I play. I thought I could get away from him."
He'll have surgery this week. Blackwood said he was sorry.
"When I approached him, he turned and stiff-armed me," Blackwood said, "and when he did that the only place I could tackle him was up high. I turned him and threw him down."
Hogeboom's right shoulder hit the grass first.
"I didn't know he was hurt," Blackwood said. "I'm sorry. I don't want to hurt anybody and hamper his career."
Trudeau was among the nation's top quarterbacks at the University of Illinois, but that hardly prepared him for what he faces now. Worse, he was a holdout for the first two weeks of training camp and missed that valuable learning time.
"I know how long it's supposed to take a rookie quarterback to be able to play, but I don't know where I'm at right now," he said. "We'll find out pretty fast."
He can't count on much help from his young offensive line. The Patriots sacked Hogeboom six times a week earlier and the Dolphins got him three times Sunday, then teed off on Trudeau for four more.
Somehow, although the Dolphins knew the Colts were in a throwing mode during his stint, Trudeau completed 5 of 11 passes for 50 yards, without an interception. Hogeboom was 13 of 20 for 188 yards with 1 interception.
Marino had a better day: 17 of 29 for 254 yards, with a 4-yard scoring throw to Nat Moore and an interception on a foolish end-zone bomb from the 50-yard line.
Maybe Marino thought that against the Colts the Dolphins could do no wrong. It was almost true.
On Pruitt's scoring punt return, he first dropped the punt, then dropped it again when he tried to pick it up.
He thought to himself: "You'd better pick it up and do something positive."
So when he finally started running, he went right against the grain of the coverage, cut back left and was gone.
Miami Coach Don Shula would have been pleased with any kind of victory after last week's 50-28 blowout at San Diego.
He said: "Everyone rose to the occasion."
The Colts hope Trudeau can, too.