Maryland football introduced Mike Locksley as its head football coach Thursday in Cole Field House.
The introductory press conference was quite a grand event. The band performed before and after Locksley and athletic director Damon Evans took the stage. Donors, players and Maryland coaches from various sports joined reporters on the field.
Live from Cole Field House, Mike Locksley is being introduced as Maryland's next head football coach. https://t.co/aYqDHDPpwJ— Testudo Times (@testudotimes) December 6, 2018
Mike Locksley and AD Damon Evans take a few questions at Locksley's announcement. https://t.co/1Q2UYhWIVZ— Testudo Times (@testudotimes) December 6, 2018
Locksley reiterated multiple times throughout the press conference that Maryland was his dream job. He grew up a Maryland fan and attended football and basketball games growing up. He said the Terps remained one of the five teams he always kept tabs on—joining his alma maters Ballou High School and Towson University, the Washington Redskins and whichever team he’s coaching. If the homecoming theme wasn’t strong enough, Diddy’s “Coming Home” playing on the speakers before the press conference cleared up any confusion.
“Boy, it sure feels good to be home. It feels great to be back in the DMV with my family, all my friends, all the people who showed up here for me today,” Locksley said to open his speech. “I can’t tell you guys enough how this is a dream come true for me, to be the leader of the Maryland Terrapin football family.”
In sharing his vision for the program, Locksley kept returning to that phrase. He vowed to treat every player on the team like his own son, and said that the well-being of his players would be the No. 1 priority. Locksley also acknowledged Jordan McNair’s father, Marty, who was in attendance. Locksley’s daughter attended McDonough with Jordan McNair, and Locksley lost his own son Meiko in September 2017. He said his family and the McNairs have helped each other through the grieving process in recent months.
Of course, Locksley’s calling card has long been his recruiting connections in the greater D.C. area, one of the nation’s most abundant talent hotbeds. He’s recruited the likes of Stefon Diggs to Maryland as an assistant, and knows the Terps’ path to competing in the Big Ten East starts with more prospects making the same decision to stay home.
“I want to create the right culture and environment, and winning will follow,” Locksley said. “We have one of the best areas in the country for talent, and we’re gonna work our tails off to keep it right here. Football has opened so many doors for me, providing me with role models and mentors, friendship and people who’ve looked out for me. Being a coach is my opportunity to pay it forward.”
As has been previously reported, Locksley will remain Alabama’s offensive coordinator through the College Football Playoff. He said he’ll remain in College Park for another week and focus on his new job, then return to Tuscaloosa for practice Friday and help with preparation for the Oklahoma game on Dec. 29. After that, he said, he’ll be a Crimson Tide coach during the day and “put my Terp hat on” at night.
Locksley won the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach Tuesday, but his previous head coaching experience raised concerns for many. He went 2-26 in a tumultuous stint at New Mexico from 2009-11 and 1-5 as Maryland’s interim head coach in 2015. But he’s confident that his more recent stops, especially at Alabama, have prepared him to be a head coach again.
“I’m so far removed from that New Mexico experience ... so who I’ve become as a coach and who I’ve become as a person, as everyone else, you mature, you grow,” he said. “I just spent three years saturated in winning under Coach Nick Saban and the Alabama football program, and it’s my goal to basically take the experiences that I’ve had as a coach—not just at New Mexico, but at every stop along the way—take what I’ve learned from Coach Saban and his process and find a way to create that environment here.”
Evans, who was involved in Maryland’s coaching search in 2015 that resulted in DJ Durkin being hired over Locksley, echoed Locksley’s words regarding his growth over the last decade.
“We talked about his past,” Evans said. “He’s grown as an individual. I saw that. He indicated what he had learned, and you could just see in him, where he was then, which was eight to 10 years ago, to where he is now, he’s had a lot of life lessons, as we all have.”
The Maryland football program is still in a state of uncertainty and faces an uphill battle in 2019 and beyond. While Locksley’s hire was celebrated by countless former players, stakeholders and regional high school coaches, he’s far from a sure thing. But the overwhelming vibe Thursday morning was one of prideful optimism.
“Mike is ingrained in the very fabric of who we are as a state and who we are as Terps,” Evans said. “He embodies the spirit of one Maryland.”