By MARK F. GRAY, AFRO Staff Writer, [email protected]
The first time Mike Locksley was named the University of Maryland’s head football coach he was finishing the dismal era of Randy Edsall as the temporary leader of the program for the final six games of the 2015 season. His distinction as the first African American head coach was filtered through the prism of being the interim leader of the program.
Three years later Locksley had the asterisk removed from his title as the former caretaker was named head coach in College Park officially becoming the first Black to hold the full time position in the history of the football program.
“Michael not only stood out for his talent as a coach, but most importantly for the role he has played as a mentor to student-athletes throughout his career and his deep commitment to helping them grow into leaders on and off the field,” said Maryland Athletic Director Damon Evans in a statement. “On the field, Michael orchestrated one of the country’s most prolific offenses at the University of Alabama and has long been regarded for his recruiting prowess.”
Locksley, a D.C. native and current offensive coordinator at Alabama, won the Frank Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant by developing a prolific offense which has the Crimson Tide seeded number one heading into the college football playoffs to defend their national championship. He returns to the DMV after serving twice under coaches Ralph Friedgen and Edsall at Maryland.
“I am thrilled to be returning home and to have the opportunity to lead the Maryland Football program,” said Locksley. “Our goal is to create an atmosphere and environment focused on the total development of our student-athletes. Our focus will always be to help them become more successful in all areas of their life through their association with our program.”
Locksley faces the challenge of rebuilding the football team on the field and cleansing its image also. After the death of former offensive lineman Jordan McNair, its apparent coverup, and the series of embarrassing conclusions from an ESPN report, the program is perceived to have a “toxic culture” that will put his reputation as one of the best recruiters in America to the test.
“I have been tremendously impressed at how the team came together through a difficult season and honored their fallen teammate, Jordan,” Locksley said. “We are all in this together, and I look forward to rejoining the Maryland family.”
Locksley was listed as a top-25 recruiter in 2003, 2005, 2006 and was a finalist for 2007 recruiter of the year by Rivals.com. He also played a major role top-10 recruiting classes during each of his two seasons (2003-04) as running backs coach and recruiting coordinator at the University of Florida. Locksley has signed 21 four or five star recruits over his coaching career according to 247sports.com- fourteen hailed from the DMV area- and also coached 92 NFL Draft picks.
Several of Locksley’s former recruits at Maryland later became solid contributors on NFL teams. Stefon Diggs, Vernon Davis, and Yannick Ngakoue remain active on rosters in Minnesota, Washington, and Jacksonville respectively while Shawne Merriman, LaMont Jordan, D’Qwell Jackson, and EJ Henderson enjoyed solid careers.
Locksley reportedly was selected from a group of finalists that included this year’s interim head coach Matt Canada and Michigan offensive coordinator and Howard alumni Pep Hamilton. He inherits a team that was one victory from qualifying for a post season bowl despite all the distractions of this past season. However, with a career mark of 3-31 as a head coach, critics are apprehensive that he was the right fit for the job.