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Inside The NFL

Nov. 02, 1998
Nov. 02, 1998

Table of Contents
Nov. 2, 1998

Faces In The Crowd
Pro Basketball [bonus Piece]

Inside The NFL

By Rick Reilly; Richard Deutsch

SIGN MAN
Eagles Fan Has Banner Days

This is an article from the Nov. 2, 1998 issue Original Layout

John Rodio doesn't have to speak. He uses sign language.

For the Oct. 11 game between the 0-5 Redskins and the 0-5
Eagles, he hung a huge banner at Veterans Stadium that read, MAY
THE WORST TEAM LOSE.

When Jimmy Johnson spurned the Eagles' coaching job to remain a
Fox analyst, the people's hero known as Sign Man left a 32-foot
message: HEY, JIMMY, FOX YOU. When the Eagles were known around
the league as being too nice: WE NEED THUGS, NOT HUGS.

Rodio, 34, is a landscaper from Hammonton, N.J.; an Eagles
season-ticket holder; and a fan "forever," he says. Before every
Eagles home game (and an occasional road game) for the past 15
years, he has taken nearly unrippable white reinforced paper and
a can of paint and tried to get his point across in
three-foot-high letters. Then he has hung his works from a
railing in front of 18 seats, usually to rave reviews.

The day of the Redskins-Eagles game was a typical one in the
life of a paintbrush poet. Rodio hung his sign. Eagles
management complained about the tone. The sign stayed. A photo
of it made The Washington Post and the national wires.

"They say they want me to be positive, but it's not my fault we
were 0-5!" Rodio says. "I mean, this is why we're one of the
worst teams in the league. We were 0-5, and they're worrying
about signs!"

Somebody once said that the revolution is only a T-shirt away. If
you owned the Eagles, wouldn't you worry?

In 1991, when then Eagles owner Norman Braman was vacationing in
the South of France while defensive stars Jerome Brown, Seth
Joyner and Clyde Simmons were holding out, Sign Man wrote, NORM:
TU N'EST PAS ECOUTE (Norm: You're not listening). Upon the
hiring of gung ho coach Ray Rhodes: WHAT A DIFFERENCE A RAY
MAKES. On the Eagles' management team of owner Jeff Lurie and
executive vice president Joe Banner: LURIE/BANNER: DUMB AND
DUMBER.

Rodio's signs are so popular he spends much of the game talking
to admirers. Some have suggested that he pursue a career helping
politicians with pithy slogans. But he sticks with his
one-phrase-a-week job.

Eagles management should be careful about driving Rodio, who has
had some of his negative signs taken down. He came to the
Redskins game anticipating another Philly loss. The Eagles won
17-12, denying Rodio the chance to roll out another message: I'M
POSITIVE. WE STINK. --Rick Reilly

Brad Maynard
PERFECTING THE CORNER KICK

Giants punter Brad Maynard has found a way to eliminate human
error on kicks that travel inside the opponent's 20-yard line:
Keep the ball away from the humans. "Anytime someone can touch
the ball, there's a chance for mistakes," Maynard says. "So I
don't take any chances."

In his second year Maynard has already established himself as a
premier coffin-corner punter. As a rookie last season Maynard
led the league with 33 punts downed inside the 20. That total
was two short of the NFL record of 35 set by the Oilers' Rich
Camarillo and the Steelers' Mark Royals in 1994. "Most punters
like to dink it or kick it real high to a spot on the field and
let their guys down it, but I don't feel you have as much
control that way," says Maynard, whose 19 punts inside the 20
through seven games this year have put him on pace for a record
total of 43. "I pick a spot on the sideline and kick to it."

As a youngster in Tipton, Ind., Maynard never modeled himself
after the NFL's great punters. "There were no posters of Ray Guy
or Reggie Roby on my bedroom walls," he says. He did, however,
spend his afternoons punting as many as 200 balls, and by his
senior year at Sheridan High in Atlanta, Ind., Maynard was
averaging almost 40 yards a kick.

While attending a kicking camp in Anderson, Ind., before his
freshman year at Ball State in 1992, Maynard was approached by
an 86-year-old kicking guru named Bill Reynolds. He taught the
undisciplined Maynard the technique necessary for controlling
his kicks. "He fine-tuned me," says Maynard, who after averaging
44.2 yards per punt during his college career was selected in
the third round of the '97 draft.

Reynolds was also the one who suggested that Maynard work on
kicking the ball out-of-bounds. Says Maynard, "I don't know why
guys don't do it all the time." --Richard Deutsch

COLOR PHOTO: LOU CAPOZZOLA Rodio gets his point across at the Vet, even when it isn't a popular one with Eagles management. [Banner created by John Rodio reading "MAY THE WORST TEAM LOSE" in stands]