At Big 33 Football Classic, Miller and Ladd get acquainted before heading to Maryland

At first, Big 33 Maryland teammates B'Ahmad Miller and Andrew Ladd might not seem to have a lot in common other than their lineman size.

They play opposing positions — Miller at defensive end and Ladd at offensive tackle — for Team Maryland, which will compete Saturday in the 60th annual Big 33 Football Classic against Pennsylvania. They played for rival high school teams — Miller for No. 1 St. Frances and Ladd for No. 2 Archbishop Spalding. Miller was a three-star recruit while Ladd cracked the Cavaliers starting lineup for the first time last fall.

After joining forces Saturday night, however, they plan to team up again in the fall at Maryland.

Although Miller is a scholarship player and Ladd will try to earn a spot as a preferred walk-on, both are highly motivated to succeed in their personal quests. Miller aims for a chance to get onto the field next fall as a true freshman. Ladd thinks he can beat the odds and get past the scout team to make the final Terps roster.

They didn't go head-to-head in high school, being on the left sides of their lines, and they didn't know each other, so they planned to get get better acquainted during the five-day Big 33 experience, which includes four days of practice and festivities that began Tuesday leading up to Saturday's 7 p.m. game at Landis Field in Harrisburg, Pa.

Ladd isn't surprised that Miller was a three-star recruit at defensive end.

"From the little bit I've been able to see because he plays on the other side of the line and everything I've heard about him, he's a hell of a player and he has a heart and he's willing to do whatever it takes," Ladd said.

When Miller heard that Ladd planned to try to walk on at Maryland, he was impressed.

"That takes dedication," Miller said, "and that's the type of people that I like to surround myself with, people that's dedicated like that."

When they get to College Park, they know they have their work cut out for them to reach their goals. Their high school coaches have told them it will be hard, but Miller and Ladd are optimistic.

"With Maryland, we're a little low on the 'D' line, so I'm definitely talking about coming in and starting," said Miller, 6 feet 3, 280 pounds, "but everybody got to work for theirs, so that's what I'm definitely going to do, work."

St. Frances coach Henry Russell said Miller will have to give everything he has to get onto the field in the fall.

"He's a very talented kid," Russell said. "Obviously, it's a different level playing in the Big Ten. It's a big jump. He'll have to work real hard to learn the defense and work hard in the weight room in the off season. He's got his work cut for him, but he's definitely a great kid to have on your team. If he doesn't play this year, I'm sure in the future, he'll be contributing."

Ladd, a 6-3, 270-pound offensive tackle who played every snap in his first year as a starter, drew a little interest from Division II and Division III programs, but his heart has been set on Maryland almost as far back as he can remember, so he will take his chances.

"It's honestly a dream come true for me," he said. "I think I have a pretty good shot. I'm a hell of a competitor. Put me up against anybody [and] I have faith in myself that I'll be able to take anyone down. ... There's not one person around that doesn't think I can do it and and that just makes me more confident and more willing to do it."

Spalding coach Kyle Schmitt, a Terps offensive lineman from 2001 to 2004, said Maryland needs players up front but that Ladd faces the toughest athletic challenge of his life.

"It's an extreme challenge to move past being a scout-team guy to a guy that's in the rotation and having a chance to get on the field," Schmitt said, "but, as I told him, the offensive line is a place where blue-collar, smart guys sometimes find a niche. I think his best football is ahead of him. He hasn't developed in the weight room yet, he's not a bad athlete and he's smart and tough, and I think that can give you a chance at least to contribute."  

Both players are also determined to bring home their degrees and academics, weighed heavily in their decisions to attend Maryland.

Miller, who already runs his own small business, believes his future probably lies in the business world though he's also intrigued by sports management and kinesiology. Ladd, who has been a volunteer fireman, plans to major in fire protection engineering and become a career firefighter like his late father.  

Team Maryland coach Chuck Markiewicz, Arundel's coach, likes having both because they're not only good but they work hard and they're coachable.

Miller is "big and he can move and [at Sunday's practice] we put him on a short-yardage package as the backside tight end because he's so athletic," Markiewicz said.

With Schmitt and Spalding quarterback Even Fochtman part of the offensive team, Ladd won't face much that's new.

"As soon as he decided to walk on at Maryland, I said we need to take him," Markiewicz said. "He's a real good player and he knows Kyle's schemes, so there's not a whole lot of teaching involved."

Miller and Ladd wanted to play in the game from the moment tryouts were announced, and they're eager to help Team Maryland bring home just its second win in the past five years of Big 33 competition.

"I heard a lot of good things about this game," Miller said. "A couple of my coaches played in it. To represent the state of Maryland and the flag, that's real big and I really take that serious."

Miller and Ladd were looking forward to meeting a lot of people, especially their teammates and their host families, and taking that first step toward college football.

"I couldn't imagine any better way to end my high school career," Ladd said. "It's all about representing your state. It's an opportunity that you always wish you could get and that you can never pass it up when you get it."

katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

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