A few months ago, Cal State Long Beach quarterback Doug Gaynor looked more like an extra in a 1970s surf movie than a pro football prospect. His flowing golden locks would have made Heidi jealous.
These days, though, Gaynor is fashionably trimmed (his coach's suggestion and his wife's handiwork). But the senior didn't need a haircut to go on job interviews. The way this guy throws the football, future employers would be waiting in line to offer him big bucks if he wore his hair in a beehive.
After 10 games this year, Gaynor has thrown for 2,908 yards and 18 touchdowns. He has completed 275 of 380 passes for a nation-leading .724 completion percentage. If he can maintain that pace, he would surpass Steve Young's NCAA record of .713, established in 1983. Gaynor also has a shot at Young's NCAA record for completions in a season (306).
Last week in the 49ers' nationally televised win over San Jose State, the 6-foot 2-inch, 213-pounder showed why his stock is so high. Time after time, he exhibited what the pro scouts like to call the "escape dimension," avoiding Spartan blitzes with ballet-like moves. And he also showed he was big and strong enough to stick in the pocket and deliver the ball just before being hit.
Two plays in particular displayed all of Gaynor's best attributes:
Making the right decision --Midway through the second quarter, Gaynor read a Spartan blitz, disregarded the original play and immediately looked for receiver Charles Lockett sprinting down the sideline. Despite the pressure, he hung onto the ball until the last second.
Physical ability --Standing flat-footed and surrounded by San Jose players, Gaynor threw a perfect spirial 45-yards into the outstretched hands of Lockett, who never broke stride and had a mere half-step lead on the defender.
Unselfishness --Early in the third quarter with the 49ers on the San Jose State four-yard line, Gaynor faked a handoff right and then rolled left. With no defender in sight, Gaynor stopped short of the goal line and pitched the ball back to freshman receiver Michael Roberts, who scored his first touchdown of the season.
"I just thought, 'Why not let Michael score it?' " Gaynor said. "I thought it would be neat for a new guy to get the TD. He started laughing and then later he came up to me and said, 'Hey man, that was embarrassing.' But I think he really liked it."
His teammates have little to complain about. Gaynor has been the most important factor in the 49ers' success and without him it seems very unlikely they would still be in the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. race. If Long Beach (4-1, 6-4) can beat Fresno State (6-0, 8-0-1) Saturday and Cal State Fullerton on Nov. 23, it will win the conference title.
There's no trace of vanity, but Gaynor will talk matter-of-factly about his attributes.
"I think I can throw any type of pass with touch and I think I can put fear into a defense because I can break containment . . . defenses hate it when a quarterback runs," he said.
"Holding the ball too long sometimes and then throwing it up for grabs," said Gaynor, who has thrown 14 interceptions this year. "But making the wrong decision is every quarterback's worst enemy and I think I'm getting better every game. I'll take a sack now rather than trying to come up with the big play every time."
Gaynor says he has dreamed of playing pro football since he was 8 years old, but he's enjoying his senior season so much, he's not even thinking about life after Long Beach right now.
"I'm in a great position," he said, smiling. "I mean just being here with a chance to play in this kind of (pass-oriented) offense is unbelievable. This is the happiest I've ever been in my life."
Well, actually, he might even be a bit happier if he still had his long locks.
"I liked my hair long. My wife liked it. Let's just say it wasn't our idea to cut it," Gaynor said.
So the Gentleman's Quarterly look was 49er Coach Mike Sheppard's idea?
"I didn't say that," Gaynor said, diplomatically. "Anyway, I'm not the kind of person who minds a change. And it's growing back."
Next year, Gaynor will be able to afford any type of haircut he wants and his wife won't have to pull out her scissors.
Or, more likely, the Jets' Mark Gastineau might end up with the second-longest hair in the NFL.
Saturday's showdown between Fresno State and Long Beach at Veterans' Stadium is the most important PCAA game of the year and it might turn out to be the most fun to watch. With Gaynor and the Bulldogs' Kevin Sweeney at quarterback, there should be plenty of wide-open offense.
Sweeney, a junior, has a good chance of eclipsing Doug Flutie's NCAA career passing yardage record (10,579), if he remains healthy next year. Sweeney is 279 yards short of former Nevada Las Vegas quarterback Randall Cunningham's PCAA record (8,020) and he could surpass that mark Saturday.
Last week, Sweeney completed a school-record 80% of his passes (28 of 35) as the Bulldogs rallied to beat University of the Pacific, 43-37. He threw for 346 yards and a touchdown and ran for two more touchdowns, earning PCAA Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Fresno leads the conference in rushing (221 yards per game) and Long Beach leads in passing (293). The Bulldogs are No. 1 in the PCAA in total offense (457 yards per game) and scoring offense (38.9 points per game). The 49ers are second in both categories with 384 yards and 25.6 points a game.
"They should change that game to Sunday," Gene Murphy, Cal State Fullerton coach, lamented. "That'd be a great game to see."
PCAA Notes How Sweet Is It? Dept.: Fullerton defensive end Sean Foy was named Defensive Player of the Week after collecting 13 tackles, including 5 1/2 sacks and 2 tackles for loss, in the Titans' 21-17 win over New Mexico State. "For a defensive lineman, that was really a sweet win," Foy said, after the Titans sacked Aggie quarterbacks 12 times. " Twelve times?" Foy repeated. "I knew it was a lot, but that is sweet. That's really sweet." . . . If Fresno beats Long Beach, the California Bowl could be the only postseason game featuring two unbeaten teams. Mid-American Conference favorite Bowling Green is 7-0 in conference play and 9-0 overall and the Falcons finish the season against 2-7 Toledo and 2-7 Ohio University. . . . Marlon Vaughn, a 6-2 point guard at Dominguez High School, has made an verbal commitment to attend Cal State Fullerton. Vaughn can sign a letter of intent to play for the Titans Wednesday when the eight-day fall signing period begins. Vaughn played behind Rod Palmer, now at UCLA and was the team's third guard. He blossomed this summer and was among the top 25 players at the Superstar Camp at UC Santa Barbara.