For a guy who, by all accounts, is skilled at calling an audible in the face of defensive maneuvering on the football field, Rob Huffman sure has had a lot of problems calling the right play in the barber shop.
The trouble started before the season began when Huffman had his hair mowed into a $3.75 flattop, a yearly tradition he has followed since his Pop Warner days. Huffman, who is the Cal State Northridge quarterback, decided at the same time to have his naturally light-brown locks bleached white.
The resultant sight was as unnerving to Huffman as a quarterback spying a blitzing Lawrence Taylor with a clear lane to the backfield. He decided to pass--from the Madonna look to that of Jim McMahon--and dyed his spiked hair brown.
Then his problems really began.
His hair, "kind of came back," but it also "kind of turned orange." So Huffman bootlegged to the chop shop for another flattop and had the sides of his scalp sheared.
"It's just the tips that still have that little fire color," Huffman said. "I've got to get it cut again."
On the field, where his head is encased in a red CSUN helmet, Huffman also had some trouble getting things right the first time. In the season-opener against Boise State, he threw five interceptions as the Matadors lost, 30-0.
Huffman has since led CSUN to a 5-1 overall record and a 2-1 record in Western Football Conference play. He has passed for 896 yards and eight touchdowns and has thrown just one interception since the Boise State game. Last week, against Southern Utah State, Huffman completed 16 of 21 passes for 261 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also rushed for a touchdown.
When Huffman, who was an All-American last season at Glendale College, chose CSUN over several Division I schools such as Louisville and New Mexico, it was considered a coup for the Matadors. Huffman, however, said the decision wasn't difficult.
He grew up in Verdugo Hills and loves the life style that the Southern California climate affords. So when Huffman began narrowing his college choices, he decided to pursue an opportunity that offered him an immediate chance to play--on and off the field.
After he took a recruiting trip to Louisville, saw the sights, met some of the townsfolk and discovered that there were no beaches in Kentucky, Huffman signed with CSUN.
"You know, when I first thought about Northridge, I thought, 'Shoot, even Glendale could beat them,' " said Huffman, who is a physical education major. "But then I came here and saw some of the players and I could tell right away that the quality, especially the juniors and seniors with the extra two years of experience, was better."
The 6-3, 205-pound Huffman, a good drop-back passer, said he has improved his rollout technique with the help of the CSUN coaching staff. A preseason battle with freshman redshirt Sherdrick Bonner for the starting job was a fight in name only. A way for Burt to keep Huffman motivated.
Bonner (6-3, 170) will play this season and may turn out to be the best ever at the position for CSUN, Coach Bob Burt said. But the next two years likely will be the Huffman era. Coaches don't recruit JC All-Americans to come in and sit on the bench. Bonner will have to wait his turn, just as Huffman did at Glendale.
An average high school quarterback from a below-average team, Huffman didn't have any colleges clamoring for his services after graduation from Verdugo Hills High. Glendale Coach Jim Sartoris liked his size and his arm strength, but decided to redshirt Huffman so he could learn the system and mature.
"When he first came in, he was a big, raw, green kid who had a pretty strong arm but terrible techniques," Sartoris said. "He was a good thrower but not a real good passer.
"Coming out to practice every day as a redshirt was tough on him, but I think he got a lot of good advice from his high school coach about being patient."
Huffman developed quickly once he got a chance to play for the Vaqueros. In 1985, he passed for 1,682 yards and 13 touchdowns and led the team to a 10-1 record and the Western State Conference championship.
Last season, he passed for 1,595 yards and 21 touchdowns and led Glendale to another 10-1 record and conference title.
"The main thing I bring to the Northridge program is experience," Huffman said. "I've proven I can play under pressure with the big teams on the JC level, now we'll see how I do at this level."
Huffman has set "obtainable" goals for this season. He wants to pass for about 1,500 yards with a 60% completion rate and throw twice as many touchdowns as he does interceptions.
"If I can perform at that level and people on our team can play to their potential, everything else will come in time," Huffman said.
Including, he hopes, a good haircut.