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They cheered and yelled, "That's it, Ed," when

By Andy ResnikAssociated Press writer Published: August 12, 1997 12:00 AM

They cheered and yelled, "That's it, Ed," when he made a lunging attempt to catch a pass. They offered advice on technique when he faltered.

Encouraging a teammate is normal for football practices. Then again, Barreto's situation is far from normal. The 60-year-old is attempting to play for his alma mater 39 years after last taking the field.

"When I'm 60 years old, I hope I can move as well and run as well as he does," senior safety Chris Fichtner said. "For his age, I'd say he's doing real well. We're all rooting him on."

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The idea of a 60-year-old chasing men 40 years his junior might seem crazy, but it matches Barreto's lifestyle. Having completed more than 200 marathons, including two a weekend for a year, Barreto said he and his family have never been limited by social norms.

"We try very hard not to be patterned by society, not to behave our age," he said.

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But wanting to compete and actually playing college football are two different things.

Eagles coach Gary Keller said it's unlikely Barreto will see action.

"We have a policy that we dress everybody on the team," Keller said. "We're not going to discriminate in terms of who's going to be on the sidelines."

Although Barreto is in great shape, he lacks the size (5-foot-10, 180 pounds), speed and agility required to shadow the speediest receivers. He'll probably spend much of practice _ and all season _ watching, his coaches said.

In practice, Barreto will work out with the defensive backs. Secondary coach Doug DeVito is concerned about the situation.

"As long as he can accept his role and not impede the development of other players, then he can come out," DeVito said. "But I refuse to let it be a disruption to our team and our secondary.

"I'm not going to let him get into contact drills. I can't consciously do that."

Fichtner feels Barreto, of Naples, Fla., is being treated like any other incoming first-year player. But he is glad Barreto will not participate in contact drills.

"I really don't know if I could hit him as hard as I hit somebody in a game," he said. "That'd be tough."

A retired chemistry teacher sporting a gold stud in his left ear, Barreto will return to Ashland this fall to begin work on a master's degree in sports science.

As far as eligibility, he has two semesters remaining, and under NCAA rules for Division II and III, there's no time restriction on when he can use them and no age limit.

His status with the team didn't seem to deter Barreto after his first full practice Monday morning. Despite observing all contact drills, he couldn't wait for the afternoon session.

"I feel absolutely great," Barreto said. "I'm never discouraged."

Barreto clearly knows his physical limitations.

"My knees have been through so many marathons, and I ran so much, that I just can't keep up with the young guys," he said.

But, he notes, Ashland's motto is, "Accent the Individual."

"And that's exactly what they do," he said. "I didn't get kicked out. That's why regardless of how bad I am or how short I fall, I'm not going to walk out."

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