When Henry Darmstadter joined Maryland football as a walk-on kicker this summer, there was little fanfare to accompany it. No big announcements. No Twitter graphics. His name wasn’t on the Terps’ online roster when we wrote about Maryland’s other kickers and specialists.
But Darmstadter has made a name for himself quickly. He seized the starting job a week into this season, and turned heads with a 51-yard field goal to end the first half of Saturday’s game at Minnesota.
Unbelievably good clock management leads to a 51-YARDER going into the half. pic.twitter.com/vHwy5OA96Y— Jared Goldstein (@_jgoldy17) September 30, 2017
It was Maryland’s longest field goal since Brad Craddock connected from 57 yards out against Ohio State in 2014. It’s the Terps’ first 50-yarder since Craddock later that season. Darmstadter’s kick gave Maryland a 17-10 lead in a game it would ultimately win 31-24, but it also changed the perception of a position that had looked like a weak link in September.
“For Henry to come in and hit that, it was big,” head coach DJ Durkin said. “It was a 51-yard field goal. That’s something we haven’t been able to do or have here in a while, so we can certainly build on that. [I’m] very excited for him. He’s been a great addition to our team.”
At this time a year ago, Darmstadter was kicking for Georgetown, which plays in the Patriot League on the FCS level. The two-time all-conference selection made 27 of 37 field goals as a senior in 2016, with a long of 49 yards. He was studying economics and applying for jobs in the area; he had two offers as a finance analyst in Northern Virginia.
At the end of last season, Darmstadter made a list of potential schools where he could kick for his final year of eligibility. He reached out to Maryland because special teams coordinator Pete Lembo and Hoyas head coach Rob Sgarlata were teammates at Georgetown, but was initially told the Terps didn’t have a spot for him.
However, Jonathan Doerer flipped his commitment from Maryland to Notre Dame in late January, reopening the door for Darmstadter.
“Throughout the spring, I’d come up here once, met Coach Durkin and talked to Coach Lembo a lot,” he said. “From there, it sort of evolved. We talked about the school, because for me it was also important to be able to get a decent education out of this. I didn’t want to just come here and play football. I wanted to be able to use this to get myself a Master’s to sort of propel my career a bit.”
He joined the team in the summer, jumping into an open kicker competition with senior Adam Greene and sophomore Mike Shinsky. It helped that he’d already won a similar battle before his sophomore year at Georgetown before becoming the Hoyas’ all-time leader in field goals made and field goal percentage.
“Obviously it was different. There was only two of us [at Georgetown],” Darmstadter said. “But having that experience definitely helped me coming in here, just being able to go through the pressure and being able to handle it.”
Greene, who was Maryland’s starter last year, took every kick against Texas, but Darmstadter unseated him a week later. He’s been perfect on extra-point attempts, but went 1-for-2 on 34-yard field goals against UCF, which underlined and italicized the question mark already surrounding the position. Darmstadter lined up for a 23-yarder on the opening drive against Minnesota, but the Terps ran a fake that came up short.
He was getting loose on the sidelines in the final minute of the first half, but knew the Terps would need a productive drive for him to get an opportunity. That’s what happened. Max Bortenschlager found Taivon Jacobs on a third down, and with six seconds left, Ty Johnson scampered from midfield to the Gophers’ 33-yard line, going down with enough time remaining.
In a swirling wind, Darmstadter made the most of that chance.
“The distance wasn’t really worrying me. It was more, am I going to get the right accuracy, am I going to be able to play the wind the right way,” Darmstadter said. “When I hit it, I said, ‘OK, I’ve got the distance,’ but I looked up and it looked like it was going straight, and then it hooked a little left, and then it came back straight.”
His teammates mobbed him in celebration. Durkin joined in before the team retreated to the locker room. Even the teammates who couldn’t be there tweeted his praises.
“My kicking coach texted me and said, ‘You’re living the dream,’” Darmstadter said. He agreed.