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April 2, 2008

First Terps football commitment made quick decision

Last weekend, Clarksburg running back/linebacker Avery Graham took time from his busy track schedule to visit Maryland.

On Saturday, Graham toured the campus and was offered a football scholarship -- his first offer. On Sunday, Graham had made up his mind. He called the staff and verbally committed, becoming the Terps’ first commitment of the 2009 class.

“Avery fell in love with the whole situation at Maryland,” said Clarksburg head coach Larry Hurd. “Avery is very interested in becoming a veterinarian -- he is an animal lover. Maryland has a great program in that respect for an undergraduate degree. He was able to meet with coach [Ralph] Friedgen and see a practice. I’m a graduate of Maryland, so I was able to show him some of the campus. Avery fell in love with the situation. Maryland offered him and Avery took some time and he decided that’s what he wanted to do. ... Things happen with Maryland rather quickly.”

The past couple years have moved pretty quickly for Graham, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound Baltimore native. The future Terp defensive back, who would’ve likely suited up for Dunbar had he stayed in Baltimore, moved to Montgomery County about two years ago. He enrolled at Clarksburg in 2006, then in its first year of existence.

The school, which draws students that would have formerly attended Damascus, Seneca Valley and Watkins Mill, went 3-6 in its inaugural season of football. Clarksburg, at that point, was comprised of freshmen, sophomores and juniors.

One sophomore that didn’t suit up that year was Graham. But Hurd couldn’t help but notice Graham around school and think of his potential and the team’s possibilities for the 2007 season.

“He came late in his sophomore year so he wasn’t able to play for us two years ago,” Hurd said. “But just watching him go through gym class, play basketball, lift weights, run track -- I knew he was going to be outstanding on the football field, and he lived up to that.”

Graham was part of a running back platoon for Clarksburg this past season, and he also played the WILL linebacker position. Hurd guided the Coyotes to a 12-1 season, which ended with a loss to Eastern Tech in the 2A state semifinals.

"This is going to burn in my soul until I come back here," Graham told The Washington Post after the loss. "And we're going to take it [next year]. State championship. We're going to take that ring."

According to Hurd, Graham’s arrival and emergence in his junior season was a huge part of Clarksburg’s success last season.

“[He had a] tremendous season,” Hurd said. “He ran the ball, had 900 yards rushing on 90 attempts, he had 14 touchdowns, added four more on kickoff returns for touchdowns. His first year, he made a big difference for us."

Graham, who recorded 76 tackles as a junior, had a seemingly slow start to his recruiting. Hurd sent out Graham’s film after football season, while Graham was completely focused on indoor track, winning the 55-meter title at the 2A state meet. Before outdoor track completely grabbed his attention, Graham and Hurd took the visit to College Park, whereupon he received that first scholarship offer.

But according to Hurd, there’s a pretty simple explanation for why Graham’s recruitment was just starting to take off.

“I can tell you that it’s very simple -- he just started playing football,” Hurd said. “Not only did he play a year of football, he played football at a brand new high school. We’re on our way to making ourselves into a great program, but we’re in our second year. To be honest, I don’t think he floated under the radar. We were 12-1 with him on the field and went to the state semifinals. Everyone who’s seen film of him has been in awe of his athletic ability.”

At Maryland, that athletic ability will be on display on the football field and the track. Friedgen assured Graham that he would be allowed to run track. The potential to play both sports, proximity to home and education were ultimately among the biggest factors in Graham’s decision, according to Hurd, who thinks his star player will fit in perfectly at College Park.

“Avery is an incredible young man,” Hurd said. “The biggest thing I’d say is that he’s driven to succeed. He’s the type of student where Bs aren’t good enough. He wants As. He’s told me he’s driven to be on the national level in football and track. He’s just a very driven young man.

“I think that Avery was looking for a certain situation. I know that Maryland applied no pressure, we applied no pressure. Avery is very much his own person and he makes up his own mind. Avery makes up his mind, and when he makes up his mind, that’s what he wants to do.”

Posted by Matt Bracken at 10:47 AM | | Comments (1)



Can you find out why more of the football Terps don't run track? More than a few of the RB's and DB's could use the speed training.

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About Matt Bracken

Matt Bracken was a lightly recruited football and tennis prospect out of East Lansing (Mich.) High School in 2001, but spurned all (nonexistent) scholarship offers to attend the University of Michigan. Matt graduated from UM in 2005, earned a master's degree in new media journalism from Northwestern University in 2006, and spent the first 11 months of his career as an online producer / videographer / blogger at the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson. He has worked at The Baltimore Sun since July 2007, where he currently serves as the deputy sports editor for digital.

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Area high school commitments -- 2009
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Maryland's 2010 football recruiting class
Maryland's 2009 football recruiting class
Maryland's 2008 football recruiting class

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