35 years ago, his primary assets were his hands
Standout Hopkins receiver now plays different game as CEO of T. Rowe Price
The photo is tucked away in a box at home, a frayed reminder of Bill Stromberg’s life before he became a suit and the CEO of investment giant T. Rowe Price. It’s a picture of Stromberg, then a wide receiver for Johns Hopkins, catching a pass with a defender on his back.
The reception, the 254th of his college career, set an NCAA Division III mark and put Stromberg in the record book.
That was in1981, before he went from jock to stocks. Thirty-five years later, he still recalls that catch in his final game, at Homewood Field, against archrival Western Maryland (now McDaniel).
“I ran a 20-yard out pattern and caught it on the sideline with a defensive back hanging on to my helmet,” said Stromberg, 56. “They stopped the game for a moment. I handed the ball to our quarterback [Jim Margraff ] and he handed it back to me. Then I threw it to the sidelines, and we went on.”
Hopkins won, 20-14. Stromberg had 11 receptions for 150 yards and a touchdown.
“He made catches over, around and through people, and even lying flat on his back one time,” The Baltimore Sun reported. It was a stellar climax to a career that earned the Little All-American a place in the College Football Hall of Fame — the only Hopkins player so honored.
“I had really good hands,” Stromberg said. “Why? You’d have to give God a ring on that. I wasn’t the fastest, but I could jump. And I was smart, with a spatial awareness of where the empty spot on the field was — and howto work my way to it. At no point did I feel it was easy.”
Stromberg finished with 258 receptions for 3,790 yards and 39 touchdowns. He fell three catches shy of the then-NCAA Division I mark of 261, set by Tulsa’s Howard Twilley in 1965. Both records are long surpassed.
A Catonsville native who attended Loyola Blakefield, Stromberg caught a 45-yard Bill Stromberg touchdown pass in his first game at Hopkins. For four years, he foiled opponents by running precise routes and making twisting, acrobatic catches, reaching over defenders or stretching out horizontally, like Raymond Berry, the Colts Hall of Famer.
“There was some patterning there [with Berry],” he said. “I’d read some documents he’d written [about receiving]. I got to meet Berry in my senior year; it was a thrilling experience.”
At Hopkins, Stromberg teamed with Margraff, a gutsy quarterback whose size (5-foot-10) belied a dogged will to win. Often, they lingered after practice, honing their timing or studying film. Stromberg might not have set the NCAA record against Western Maryland had Margraff — now Hopkins’ head coach — not shrugged off an elbow injury that day. The Blue Jays finished 7-2, the most victories in what was then the school’s 100-year football history.
After college, Stromberg turned pro, signing as a free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1982. He played two preseason games and caught two passes before tearing a hamstring. He was the last receiver cut despite having what Eagles coach Dick Vermeil called “the best hands in camp.”
Stromberg ditched sports and moved on.
“I felt it was time to do something else and, hopefully, do it well,” he said. He earned an MBAfrom Dartmouth and, in 1987, joined T. Rowe Price as an analyst. Last year, he became its president.
Married 32 years and the father of three, Stromberg lives in Lutherville and still struts his stuff.
“I love throwing the football around, but I don’t miss getting hit,” he said. Enshrined in the College Hall of Fame in South Bend (Ind.) in 2004, he took part in a flag football game for inductees there and caught two touchdown passes from former Washington Redskins star Joe Theismann.
Stromberg will be in the stands Saturday when undefeated Hopkins hosts defending national champion Mount Union (Ohio) in the second round of the NCAA Division III playoffs.
“If I were a betting man, I’d give [the Blue Jays] better-than-even odds — though I imagine the pool is stacked in the other direction,” he said. Regrets? Stromberg has none. “I gave my all to what I did [on the field] and to what I’m doing now,” he said. “God has a plan for all of us.”