35 years ago, his pri­mary as­sets were his hands

Stand­out Hop­kins re­ceiver now plays dif­fer­ent game as CEO of T. Rowe Price

Baltimore Sun - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - By Mike Klinga­man mike.klinga­man@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/MikeKlinga­man

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.”

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