SAN DIEGO — Kevin Sweeney has the same problem most of the rest of the country has when it comes to keeping informed on the nocturnal performances of Todd Santos, San Diego State quarterback.
"The games are over too late," Sweeney said last week in a telephone interview from the Dallas Cowboys' training complex in Irving, Tex. "They never make the papers."
Luckily for Sweeney, a friend of his attends SDSU and can keep him abreast of Santos' progress on replacing him as the all-time leading passer in major college football.
"I call him up every week and he lets me know what Todd is doing," Sweeney said.
This week that call told him Santos completed 29 of 40 passes for 373 yards in a 29-21 victory at Hawaii Saturday night. After this week there might not be a need for the call.
The Aztecs play Brigham Young Saturday afternoon in a Western Athletic Conference game at Provo, Utah. And if Santos continues his recent pace, almost everyone who follows college football will know of his accomplishments before the day is over. Santos has averaged 447.7 yards passing in the past three games. He has 10,413 yards, and needs to throw for 211 yards against the Cougars to pass Sweeney and become the most prolific passer in National Collegiate Athletic Assn. Division I-A football history.
It took Sweeney parts of five seasons at Fresno State to accumulate 10,623 yards, and to see it surpassed is sad.
"I worked a long time for that record," Sweeney said. "I'll be sorry to see it go."
Sweeney said he understands that records are not expected to last forever, but he hardly had time to savor this one. He set it last Nov. 22 in the first half of the last game of his senior season.
"It would have been nice to enjoy it a little longer," Sweeney said. "But if anyone has to break it, I'm glad it's Todd."
Such good wishes might seem less than sincere if it were not that Sweeney and Santos are friends.
Sweeney and Santos grew up only 15 miles apart in the San Joaquin Valley--Sweeney in Fresno and Santos in Selma, a farming community south of Fresno. They played against each other in a high school all-star game after their senior year. Sweeney had the better statistical game as his team of city players defeated Santos and his team of Fresno County players.
Sweeney's father, Jim, coach at Fresno State, unsuccessfully recruited Santos to play for the Bulldogs and later briefly coached Santos' younger brother, Rob. Sweeney and Santos used to workout together in the summer. Santos even attended Sweeney's wedding last summer.
"I would have loved to have had Todd here, but I can see why he didn't come here at the same time Kevin was here," Jim Sweeney said Monday. "But they've kept in touch. Kevin and Todd must have worked out every day two summers ago."
But the two have seen little of each other since Sweeney reported to the Cowboys' training camp in Thousand Oaks last July.
Sweeney, a seventh-round draft choice, was cut when Dallas reduced its roster to meet the 45-man opening day limit. But he rejoined the Cowboys as part of their replacement team near the start of the 24-day strike by National Football League players. He started the first two games the Cowboys played with replacement players, completing 14 of 28 passes for 291 yards and 4 touchdowns with 1 interception. The Cowboys won both games. Since the regular players have returned, Sweeney has been kept on the expanded post-strike roster but has not been activated.
"I wasn't sure what to expect when the regular players came back," Sweeney said. "I was a little worried about their reaction. But they've treated me fine. Maybe knowing them all from training camp helped."
Sweeney said his decision to cross the picket line and join the replacement team was difficult because his family has a heritage of union activism. Two of his grandfathers were hard-rock miners in Montana, and Jim Sweeney worked summers in the mines.
"A scab was the worst thing you be," Jim Sweeney said. "If you were a scab, you had rocks thrown at your house; you had your garage knocked down. I know because I was one of the ones doing it."
But it was Sweeney who eventually urged Kevin to play.
"This wasn't a strike like the ones in the mines," Jim Sweeney said. "I talked to some people around the NFL; they told me he was crazy not to play. He said he didn't want to cross a picket line, I told him to go ahead."
It was the latest example of the influence his father has had on Sweeney's career. It was his father's emphasis on the passing game that led Sweeney to attend Fresno State. Sweeney said he considered Washington and USC but rejected both.
"Washington wanted me to make a verbal commitment before the signing date," Sweeney said, "and I didn't feel like going to SC and handing the ball off every play."