Jacqiulle Veii will start and finish his college football career at Maryland. He started under Randy Edsall and will finish under DJ Durkin. All that’s pretty normal in College Park these days, but Veii’s journey isn’t.
“Unique is definitely a good word for it,” Durkin told reporters Thursday.
He hasn’t played a college football game since 2015, and hasn’t played on the FBS level since 2014.
Veii came to Maryland as a running back, but flip-flopped between there and wide receiver as a sophomore. He ultimately couldn’t find a clear spot on the roster, and elected to transfer after two years with the program.
“I fell in love with preparing at the wide receiver position, because if I had stayed [at Maryland] I would have been playing running back, and that’s not something I wanted to do,” Veii said.
He didn’t venture far, ending up less than an hour away at Towson, an FCS program in Baltimore. It wasn’t big-time college football, but it was a chance for Veii to carve out a clear role for himself without splitting time at different positions. At Maryland, he felt switching back and forth between running back and receiver hurt his progression.
“It was kind of tough mentally,” Veii said. “The body position that you play at wide receiver and running back is two different movements, so I had to literally change how I move my body.”
So off to Towson he went, and he led the Tigers in receiving in 2015. Then, out of nowhere, a report surfaced that Veii was back at Maryland last spring, this time as a walk-on with no guarantee of a scholarship.
Once he was back with the Terps, Veii still had to sit out the 2016 season due to NCAA transfer rules. He was out catching passes from Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe last March, but still hasn’t seen live game action a year later. That’s something he was prepared for.
“You knew what you were getting into,” he said. “I didn’t come in here thinking that, ‘I’m gonna get put on scholarship right away, I’m not gonna have to sit out.’ I knew everything that was gonna happen, so it was just me preparing myself mentally to do that.”
In the meantime, Veii’s biggest goal has been acclimating further to wide receiver, a position he wasn’t polished at after high school. He learned first at Maryland under previous receivers coach Keenan McCardell, then from Stefon Diggs during visits home from Minnesota, and now from current receivers coach Chris Beatty.
“I’m more patient with my routes and I’m defining my routes much better,” Veii said. “Back when was at Towson I thought I was doing that, but when I watched the film I was sick to my stomach.”
He’s improved, and has evidently caught the eye of his coaching staff. His presence is a welcome development for the Terps, who graduated Levern Jacobs, Teldrick Morgan and Malcolm Culmer, three of their top four receivers.
Veii was practicing with the first team at Thursday’s open practice, joining D.J. Moore and Taivon Jacobs at wideout.
“Jacquille, we have high expectations for,” Durkin said. “If you look at practices last year, he stood out. He’s a guy that certainly could have helped us a bunch last year. Obviously he had to sit out, but really fast, dynamic speed, competitive, works hard. He’s all the things you want.”
Veii declined to say where he’s been lining up, but his versatility figures to be an asset for an offense that isn’t shy about putting receivers in the backfield.
“There’s any number of positions he could really help us at, so we’ll continue to sort through that and work him at different spots throughout spring ball and camp,” Durkin said. “He’ll definitely be a guy that’s playing and helping us.”
Veii will still have to wait another five months before he can play in an actual football game. When he takes the field against Texas on Sept. 2, it’ll have been over 21 months since he last played a football game. Veii’s ready to break that streak.
“You start to smell blood in the water,” he said. “You wanna eat.”