There is a chance that before he's through with his college football career at Weber State College, Melvin Maxwell could make college gridiron history.
He could become the first player in the long and storied annals of the game to both play in a game and also march with the marchinggroup at halftime.
OK, it's only a real small chance that this could happen, and the reason is this: Coach Dave Arslanian says Weber would have to have at least a 60-0 lead at the half.
But the point is it could happen. That's because Maxwell, a starting flanker on Weber's football team, is also a card-carrying, high-kicking, full-fledged member of Weber State's halftime marching group, the Chatonelles.
The Chatonelles had confined themselves to all-female status until
Maxwell came along two winters ago and tried out for the squad. He did everything the coeds did in tryouts, except wear a dress, and they had to admit, quite objectively, that his high kicks and splits were every bit as good as anyone in the line.
"Wasn't much they could do," says Dave Arslanian, "they had to keep him."
As you might guess, being a member of both the Chatonelles and the football team initially generated a lot of grief from Maxwell's teammates, both ways. The football players wanted to know where his tutu was and the dancers wanted to know why he wore his hair so short.
The whole situation could have gotten ugly except for one thing. It was obvious that Maxwell was as serious about dancing as he was about football.
Besides, he was good at deflecting the comments. Growing up in San Diego, he went to a performing arts high school (Maple E. O'Farrell) during the day and then, after school, he'd high step on over to the regular high school (Morse High) so he could play on the football team.
"I'd come to football practice straight from dance class, wearing tights," he says, remembering his high school days. "I remember at first how weird the football players thought I was. They thought I was gay or something."
Earning All-San Diego and All-CIF honors helped his football credibility immensely, however. As a senior he had 566 yards in receptions, eight interceptions, a 42-yard punting average, and he passed for nearly 500 yards in an option offense. He did it all - including displaying some wicked steps in the end zone, his - wait for it - favorite place to dance.
Weber State was the only college to offer him a scholarship as a receiver (and not as a defensive back), so he came to Ogden, where he discovered, to his horror, that there were limited performing opportunities for a dancer. Here he was, fresh from leading roles in musicals such as Pirates of Penzance and Guys and Dolls, and from regular performances at Southern California dance recitals, and there wasn't much to do in the way of performing unless . . . he became a Chatonelle.
He performed at several basketball games as a member of the marching group last winter, and will again this winter, when the football season is over. Maxwell also is a long jumper and triple jumper for Weber's track team. Even Fred Astaire wasn't this versatile.
If he doesn't grow up to be Jerry Rice he'll settle for Gregory Hines.
Arslanian says you can see a lot of Barishnikov in Maxwell during games.
"The way his body moves in the air, the way he adjusts to the flight of the ball; his dancing skills come out all the time," says the coach. Maxwell has caught a dozen passes so far this season, for 220 yards. He has also thrown and completed one pass, a 64-yarder that helped beat Eastern Washington. He is a primary force behind Weber's unexpectedly good 4-3 season to date.
He - and the Wildcats - will have their sternest test of the season Saturday when they play at undefeated Div. I-A Wyoming. Knowing all the steps to Swan Lake doesn't figure to be an advantage in Laramie at kickoff.Maxwell says both pursuits - dancing and football - produce bruises, but football is tougher, no question, "because in dance you don't have 260-pound guys trying to take your knees out."
But, then, if you know how to dance, the chances are better that they won't succeed.
Beyond that, if you're lucky, and if you score 60 points in the first half, you've not only got a chance to dance in the end zone, but to dance at midfield. It might not be every football player's dream. But it is Melvin Maxwell's. The ultimate game. The ultimate showtime. Just because it's never been choreographed doesn't mean there can't be a first time.