With a potential bowl game on the horizon, Maryland football has the special opportunity to find win No. 6 at home as it welcomes No. 8 Michigan to Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium when it celebrates its seniors.
The Terps stand at 5-5 with the unique chance to upset a Big Ten opponent on their home turf and advance to a bowl game for the first time since 2016.
“[A bowl game] would extend my career, give me one more game,” senior Jordan Mosley said. “It would just mean a lot because in some cases it’s about the journey not about the outcome but in this case, I really want to go to a bowl.”
None of the seniors on the roster have extended their season beyond 12 games and this year, the opportunity is just one win away. However, it will not be an easy task with the Wolverines coming to College Park followed by a road trip to face a Rutgers team that has gained momentum as the season has progressed.
“I wouldn’t say [senior day] adds pressure, we try to win games, the last for our seniors at home, going to be a special one,” quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa said. “It would mean a lot for us young guys to send them off the right way.”
The seniors in this class have experienced a series of triumphs and moments of darkness together.
This is the same senior class that defeated then-No. 23 Texas to start their careers, came back their sophomore season to collect another win over a ranked opponent in then-No. 21 Syracuse, earned a rare win against Penn State during the abbreviated coronavirus season and during the summer entering their freshman season, they lost one of their friends and teammates in Jordan McNair.
That is why, in addition to the 25 players currently on the roster who will be honored, the program will be paying tribute to Jordan who would have been a redshirt senior.
“[Head coach Michael Locksley] makes sure that Jordan's memory is one that’s going to last forever and I really appreciate the way Coach Locks, you know, integrated that into the beginning of his program and I think we’re going to continue to see today like on senior day,” Former Maryland offensive lineman Ellis McKennie who was on the team from 2015-19 said.
“This year Jordan’s gonna be honored because this would have been his senior class as well so it’s little things like that Coach Locks understood and he didn’t shy away from the challenge that was going to be building the program after such a catastrophic event.”
Jordan’s father, Marty McNair who founded the Jordan McNair Foundation, and Locksley have communicated over the last couple of years about how to best honor Jordan’s legacy. The initial plan was to celebrate Jordan’s memory during the 2020 season. However, due to all the unknowns that a coronavirus-abbreviated season presented as well as an empty stadium, they decided to reschedule their plans until this year.
“So Coach Locks and I, you know, he said, he was like, ‘Man, I think we should, you know, it’s probably better for us to do it next year. And that way we can honor Jordan in the right way as opposed to just kind of halfway in the sense,’” Marty said.
Since Locksley joined the program in 2018, he has made a conscious effort to ensure Jordan’s legacy is remembered, that his life is honored and his players have an outlet to talk about Jordan.
“We talked about it, it wasn’t something that we just tried to hide. And I know some people...sometimes were telling me, ‘hey, you know.’ But it’s happened,” Locksley told Testudo Times in October.
“Let’s talk about it because I do believe, for me, it was therapeutic to talk about losing my son and for them to be able to share their emotions about what effect it had on it just allows you to heal that wound, that’s a deep wound.”
Locksley lost his son Meiko in 2017 and less than a year later, Marty lost Jordan. When he entered the program, the head coach understood what it felt like to grieve the loss of someone so close and it led to the open-door policy he practices to this day. He welcomes his players and staff to stop by and talk about whatever is on their minds.
In terms of his direct relationship with Marty, Locksley’s daughter Kori and Jordan went to school together and graduated from McDonogh School in 2017. Locksley and Marty were always amicable as Marty describes it however when Jordan passed away, Locksley made himself there for the McNair family.
“It was Locks that really kind of stepped up and because, again, you know, that’s one of the worst things I think that can happen to a parent,” Marty told Testudo Times. “And his support is really what solidified our bond and his support as a father because literally, he knew everything that I was going through.”
Now, a little over four years later, the team will be wearing ‘79’ helmet decal stickers, Jordan’s number, on Saturday to honor him on what would’ve been his senior day celebration as well per a team spokesperson.
When the team marches into “The Shell,” some of the players for the last time, they have the opportunity to clinch a bowl game and defeat a top-10 opponent all while honoring its seniors and Jordan.
“It’s just an emotional day, it’s a really emotional day. One of the main things is I’m just glad Tonya [Jordan’s mother] and I had the opportunity and we created something tangible in terms of the work that we do for player safety and our foundation,” Marty told Testudo Times.
“Really the main thing for us is really the partnership with UMD was really, really a good one... one of the main things is it’s emotional. Because, you know, even though Jordan may not be here physically this opportunity in our relationship there continues to give us the opportunity to really carry his legacy out. Things like this and games like today, you know, this is a reminder that really he’ll never be forgotten on UMD’s campus.”