Catching up with ... former Maryland football star Ken Schroy

Know this, Ken Schroy said: Maryland’s flashy new football uniforms are uniformly grotesque.

“My God, they’re the ugliest I’ve ever seen,” said Schroy, 65, a defensive back who starred for the Terps in the 1970s. “I’m glad they didn’t have them when I was there. Give me the old red and white; I was fine with that.”

Schroy still has his Maryland jersey and helmet, and the memories of having played three years during one of the Terps’ better runs. Twice, they went to bowl games, finishing 13th in the nation in his senior year (1974). Eleven players from that Atlantic Coast Conference title team were drafted by the pros, including Schroy, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound safety who spent eight years in the NFL with the New York Jets.

At Maryland, he made the big plays — 10 interceptions and 11 fumble recoveries in a standout career under new coach Jerry Claiborne. Schroy also returned punts (12.6 yard average) and punted. His first game, as a sophomore, he boomed a kick 71 yards late in the game at North Carolina State to salvage a 24-24 tie for the Terps against the favored Wolfpack.

“Not bad, huh?” Schroy said from his home in Garden City, Long Island. “I’m proud that I hustled and worked my butt off at Maryland, just like Randy White, Lou Carter [Arundel], Bob Avellini and everyone else in our class.”

Then, freshmen weren’t eligible to play varsity. But Schroy and his first-year mates scrimmaged the Terps often, “and beat them,” he said.

His best game came in a 24-23 comeback at Virginia in 1972 in which Schroy intercepted two passes and tipped one, which was picked off by Tim Brant.

A native of Quakertown, Pa., Schroy chose Maryland “because the team was terrible, absolutely horrendous, and I knew I could play there.”

Years later, while in State College, Pa., he met up with Penn State coach Joe Paterno.

“I recruited you,” Paterno said.

“Yes sir, you did,” Schroy replied.

“But you never came to visit.”

“I didn’t think I could play here.”

“So you went to Maryland and then played in the pros?”

Schroy shrugged.

“Just lucky, I guess.”

His NFL career had a jittery start. In his last game at Maryland, Schroy broke an ankle while returning a punt. The injury sidelined him for the Liberty Bowl game in which Tennessee — bullying Schroy’s replacement — defeated the Terps, 7-3. Selected in the 10th round of the 1975 draft by the Philadelphia Eagles, he hobbled through training camp but was cut, then signed by the Jets. Finally, having recovered, he broke the other ankle in a preseason game while returning a kickoff.

New York stuck with him and, in 1980, Schroy became the starting strong safety. He had eight interceptions that year, returning a pass from Ken Stabler 82 yards for a touchdown in a 31-28 win over the Houston Oilers.

“I timed it perfect, ran as fast as I could and didn’t look back,” he said.

Schroy’s thoughts, as he crossed the goal line?

“Breathe.”

Two years later, in the AFC championship game, he picked off two passes in a 14-0 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

Shoulder woes forced Schroy’s retirement in 1984. Last week, he retired for a second time, from his post-football job with a company that designs playgrounds for grade schools and parks. Married 36 years, he plans to play with his grandchildren, fish for bass at his lakefront home in the Poconos and embrace the rest of his life.

“I abused my body for 23 years in football,” he said. “I beat the heck out of myself. I get double epidural shots every few months to reduce the pain of an inoperable fractured disk in my back. But early dementia is my main concern. I’ve been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury. My memory’s not what it used to be; I’ve got to write everything down.”

Bitter, Schroy is not.

“I wouldn’t change a damn thing,” he said. “How many people get to play major college football and be drafted by the pros?”

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MikeKlingaman

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