At Augustana College, where gridiron theory is not part of the standard curriculum and the Heisman Trophy is discussed in purely theoretical terms, defensive back Dave Torri fits right in. Like most of coach Bob Reade's players, he was not heavily recruited out of high school. Of the few recruiters who did visit Torri in Danville, Ill., most expressed interest in his talents as a centerfielder on the baseball team.
Torri, true to the Division III credo, is hardly gifted by big-time football standards—he is neither particularly big (5'9", 170 pounds) nor particularly fast (4.8 in the 40). And he is not likely to receive much attention from the pros after he finishes school this spring. Yet he's one of two defensive captains of the nation's most successful football team.
"It's just as hard at this level as at any other," says Reade, "because it's all relative. We're not saying we're as good as a Division I-A team, but to win a national championship is just as tough."
Torri has been around for the last three of Augustana's four consecutive national titles and has yet to lose a single game as a collegian. Name a Heisman candidate who can make that claim.
It was the school's winning habits—the Vikings have now gone 50 straight games without a loss—that attracted Torri to the Rock Island, Ill., campus in the first place. Division III schools offer no athletic scholarships, and had he not enrolled at Augustana, Torri says he probably would have gone to a junior college. "The streak we have going is the result of quite a tradition and all the players want to see it continue," says Torri. "One of the main reasons I was sold on Augustana was Coach Reade. He knows what it takes to win."
Reade is just as high on his star defensive back. "Torri has real good instincts for the football," he says. "He's very consistent and very smart. You'll never find him out of position. The players pick our captains, so you know Torri is a leader when he's picked by them."
Says Torri, "I'm not one to say much. I have to lead by example on the field." Last year he set a fine example with six interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns.
Torri's personal unbeaten streak of 38 games almost came to a crashing halt last season in the opener against a much weaker team from intrastate rival Elmhurst College. "The bottom line is that they played better than we did," says Reade, "but the amazing thing is that we always seem to overcome all the reasons for losing."
The game ended in a scoreless tie. "We just went into it flat," says Torri. "It was really disappointing. But we'll get another chance against Elmhurst in our first game this season."
With no pot of NFL gold at the end of his college rainbow, Torri has some quite down-to-earth plans for the future. A management-and-finance major at Augustana, he would like a job in sales somewhere near a large city in the Midwest, but he hasn't really explored many options. For now his eyes are set on just one goal: completing his college career undefeated.
Toward that end Torri has worked hard in the off-season to stay in top shape. To give himself an added challenge Torri and some friends joined 12,000 other contestants on July 25 for the Quad City Times Bix 7, a road race that winds through Davenport, Iowa. The results, unfortunately, were strictly Division III: He completed the seven miles in some 64 minutes, half an hour behind the winner. No matter. "It took us a while to get through the pack," says Torri goodnaturedly. "We did it just for fun." That says it all.
Why is this man smiling? Maybe it's because Torri has never tasted defeat at Augustana.