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2 Terps walk-ons looking to show 'upside'

College FootballFootballMaryland TerrapinsCollege SportsIvy LeagueAtlantic Coast Conference

Kyle Schmitt knows a thing or two about Division I walk-ons.

The Atholton coach, a former Maryland offensive lineman, was a Terps graduate assistant when his younger brother Dewey came to College Park without a scholarship.

But the younger Schmitt, at 6 feet, 236 pounds, served his time on the scout team as a freshman, and the following fall emerged as the Terps' long snapper — a role he never relinquished. From indistinguishable walk-on to starter, Dewey Schmitt was an inspiration.

Kyle Schmitt hopes two of his former players follow his brother. Two Atholton stars — quarterback Brian McMahon and linebacker Ean Katz — will join the Maryland football team this fall as preferred walk-ons.

"I told both of them that No. 1, I wouldn't have recommended them in my talks with Maryland if they didn't have an opportunity to contribute," Schmitt said. "Ultimately, my younger brother went to Maryland as a walk-on long snapper. By the time I was a GA there, we weren't leaving unless he was on the bus."

McMahon, a 6-4, 210-pound senior, was first-team All-Howard County after throwing for 1,289 yards and 13 touchdowns, while rushing for 772 yards and eight scores. The future Terp completed more than 60 percent of his passes for the Howard County champion Raiders, but he received very little interest as a quarterback from college recruiters. The Terps coaching staff, however, was intrigued by McMahon's potential at tight end after he worked out at the position in camp.

"Athletically, I think he's a Division I athlete," Schmitt said. "And I told him if he played tight end for us, I really think that he would be at least a I-AA type of kid, or a Division I type of athlete. That wasn't what was best for us. But he runs a 4.6, he power-cleans 300 pounds, bench-presses 300 pounds. He's only going to get bigger and stronger. I really think he's got a great upside as an athlete. It was the best move for him."

A lifelong Maryland fan, McMahon said he received interest from several Ivy League and Patriot League schools. With a 3.9 GPA, he had an offer from Colgate but ultimately narrowed his options to Johns Hopkins — a Division III program — and Maryland's preferred walk-on spot.

"Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to play for Maryland. I was pretty excited when they called," said McMahon, who plans to study business. "It seemed like the best fit. … Everyone's really excited for me to go play there. They all want to be a part of it. They're all very excited."

Katz had received interest from three Football Championship Subdivision programs — Bryant, Elon and Towson — but the 6-3, 225-pound senior held out hope for something bigger. The Terps coaches were impressed with Katz's senior film, and called Schmitt to offer a preferred walk-on spot last month. Maryland wanted a decision within a few days, and Katz happily accepted right away.

"It's always been a dream, and now I get a chance to live it," Katz said. "As long as I stick to it and work hard, I think I can be a key factor and a key player running through that tunnel."

Schmitt said Katz turned 17 shortly before a senior year in which he recorded 66 tackles. Another season of high school football for Katz could have made a significant difference in his recruiting, but Schmitt still thinks the young linebacker with a size 17 shoe has "tremendous upside."

"He's a younger senior who I think just blossomed," Schmitt said. "He's got a great work ethic and was one of the best defensive players in our county this year. It's a similar situation to Brian. A lot of schools wanted to see him just a little more. He's a bit of a tweener. He'll do really well."

Predicting big contributions for McMahon and Katz at Maryland isn't something Schmitt will do. He knows better than most just how tough it is to crack the two-deep on an Atlantic Coast Conference team's depth chart. But what he did advise his players to do is "find a way" to stand out to the coaching staff.

"It might be a snapper, might be as a guy on special teams, might be as a second- or third-string tight end," Schmitt said. "What I told these kids is: I want you to go and have as much success as you can. Be in a situation in four years where you're like an undrafted free agent in the NFL. They're going to try and replace you for four years. You've got to get ahead of that wave and really make yourself indispensable."

mbracken@baltsun.com

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