tampabay.com

Practice target makes quite a sight

By BRIAN LANDMAN
Published December 1, 2006


TAMPA - Dan Dias admits it's the "silliest looking thing" you've ever seen.

Not that appearances have stopped him from wheeling the homemade contraption - an 8- by 4-foot piece of plywood bolted to a rolling garbage can - down his driveway and into the road so he could throw a football at it.

"It's just hysterical," said Dias, 35, an attorney.

But no one, not him or anyone in his chic South Tampa neighborhood, will be laughing if the silliness pays off. And it could pay off big; $1-million big.

Dias will be one of 33 contestants taking aim at an 8 by 4 Dr Pepper can at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville today. Hit the can and he moves back 5 yards. When only one person can make it, that person returns Saturday for a shot at the grand prize at halftime of the ACC football title game.

In that final competition, the contestant has 30 seconds to throw 10 footballs through a 2-foot cutout in the same-sized can. Each successful throw is worth $10,000. A final bonus ball, thrown from 20 yards, multiplies the winnings by 10.

"They send you schematics to build your own Dr Pepper can and when it arrived, I'm sitting there saying to myself, 'Am I really going to be the guy who goes out and builds a Dr. Pepper sign?' " Dias said.

"But then I said, 'How many times in your life is someone going to give you this opportunity and if you're standing out there and you haven't at least warmed your arm up and practiced, aren't you going to feel silly?' "

Well, yeah.

So, the former high school placekicker ("I couldn't win a contest to kick?") with the help of a neighbor, Paul Epstein, went to work on constructing a practice target.

For more than a month, he has taken to the street with the contraption, stepping out of the way when cars are coming, throwing at it from varying distances as gawkers stroll by.

"That's me," he said with almost an embarrassed smile, "standing out in from of my home, chucking a ball at a piece of plywood."

Brian Landman can be reached at landman@sptimes.com or at (813) 226-3347.