Aug. 13, 1997
Young Terps Get Grand Tour
By Nicholas J. Cotsonika
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - As common as rookie mistakes are, there are some things freshman football players don't have to be taught. The University of Maryland's 22 newcomers took a tour of Washington yesterday, and even before they'd stepped off the platform at the College Park Metro station on their way downtown, a couple of them made sure they'd always get one thing right.
"Don't touch that" 750-volt third rail, wide receiver Doug Patterson of Shelby Township, Mich., said to his friend from home and fellow recruit, tight end Matt Murphy of New Haven, Mich. "That thing'll kill you."
"No, man," Murphy said. "That wouldn't kill me."
"Yeah, it would."
"No way. I've heard about people surviving a thousand volts. Okay, it might mess me up, but I'd be all right."
"Whatever," Patterson said with a grin.
Nothing profound was discussed, but that was how Coach Ron Vanderlinden wanted it. Although he did not take the tour, it was his idea for the position coaches and freshmen to get to know one another and their new city in a way that never had been done before at Maryland. It was about team-building, and a chance to relax before practice starts today -- a five-hour tour that included visits to Union Station, the Capitol, the Smithsonian and, of course, the Metro.
"I wish we had something like this when I was a freshman," said recruiting coordinator Chris Cosh, a first-time Metro rider himself and a former linebacker at Virginia Tech. "This is so much better than throwing them into things and letting them figure it out by themselves. They get comfortable and learn what they need to know."
Stick together. Don't fall out of line or get lost. Pay attention. Help each other out. Have fun.
The freshmen learned what it was like to stand out in a crowd. Most had been to Washington before, but few had walked the streets with a sense of celebrity. Everywhere they turned, there was a camera or a person pointing at them.
"Those are football players; they play for Maryland," American Field Service's Kit Moore said to the foreign exchange students she was leading through Union Station. At that, the students from Spain and Venezuela opened their eyes wide.
"They're big too," one boy said with awestruck hesitation, "BIG!"
Moore laughed and explained: "They play American football, not soccer. See, it works like this ... "
The foreign students weren't the only ones stupefied. Upon entering the Capitol Rotunda, most of the young Terrapins had little to say.
"Dang!" Murphy said.
"Whoa!" said linebacker Reggie Lewis of Chicago, looking at a picture of Washington at Yorktown. "Somebody painted that?"
Rookie mistake. One of several.
Quarterback Gil Harris of Virginia Beach inserted his Metro fare card into the machine the wrong way and got stuck. Lineman Matt Purdy, a transfer from Eastern Illinois, wore blue jeans in the 95-degree hazy heat and decided to drop his drawers in front of the Capitol. (He was wearing shorts underneath.)
Some of the players didn't bring any money and got burned when an ice cream cart rolled up. A bunch forgot one of football's cardinal rules -- never find yourself unbalanced -- and almost fell when an escalator suddenly stopped.
"We planned that," defensive line coach Ruben Carter said. "That's so you stay on your toes."
Quarterback Erik Lipton didn't respond correctly when offensive coordinator Craig Johnson pointed to a model at the Air and Space Museum and said: "It'd be cool to land on Mars, wouldn't it? Almost as cool as throwing a touchdown pass. Right?"
"Almost," Lipton said.
"No way," receivers coach Mike Gundy said, winking as he walked by. "There's no comparison."
Lipton will learn.
Terrapins Notes: Maryland officials said 21 of the 22 freshmen players have received approval of their high school transcripts and standardized test scores from the NCAA Clearinghouse, which decides whether incoming athletes have met the NCAA's freshman eligibility requirements. One player, whom Vanderlinden has declined to identify, was rejected by the Clearinghouse and is appealing. He will be allowed to practice during a two-week grace period while his file is reviewed.