Andrew Gonnella arrived at Maryland in 2007 as a walk-on in a world of scholarship players. His college football career had been a calculated risk.
When the offensive guard was in high school, his father, Alfonso — a swimming-pool supply vendor from Orange County, N.Y. — couldn't bring himself to tell his son that the family couldn't afford to send him to Maryland.
The elder Gonnella contemplated Andrew's life — how the boy endured the death of his mother from complications of juvenile diabetes when he was 4. "I pretty much mortgaged the house" to pay Maryland's tuition and fees, Alfonso said in 2009. "We basically took a home equity line of credit out and were able to have money available where we could write out checks."
The rest of Gonnella's story is one that inspired teammates and coaches — how he won a starting job in the spring of 2009 that he never relinquished, earned a scholarship later that year and became a team captain as a senior.
The story ended Saturday when Gonnella suffered a gruesome knee injury when his leg was severely twisted in the fourth quarter of Maryland's 21-16 loss at Georgia Tech.
The loss dropped the Terps to 2-3 (1-1, Atlantic Coast Conference). The game raised a question of who will start at quarterback against Clemson on Saturday night at Byrd Stadium. C.J. Brown replaced starter Danny O'Brien and ran for 124 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown. Neither quarterback was effective passing. Brown was 4-for-17 and O'Brien was 1-for-6.
Maryland coach Randy Edsall said Sunday that his quarterback decision would probably not be announced until game time.
Gonnella remained in an Atlanta hospital Saturday night. He faces later surgery and is done for the season, according to Edsall. Edsall said he spoke with Gonnella on Sunday. Edsall thanked Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson via Twitter for visiting the player in the hospital.
Gonnella was interested in Maryland, among other reasons, because his uncle, offensive lineman J.D. Maarleveld, had starred at College Park before playing two seasons in the NFL. The younger Gonnella had passed up academic scholarships at smaller schools.
Edsall began his postgame remarks to the media by saying Gonnella has "been a great leader for us and a guy who loves the game of football. Now we just need to take a piece of him with us and go back out there and play for him."
Alfonso Gonnella said Sunday that his son "is doing really good." The player was due to return to Maryland on Monday.
Gonnella, 6 feet 5 and about 300 pounds, was a versatile player who has started at both guard spots.
In his absence, Edsall said Sunday that redshirt sophomore Pete White would likely be the "No. 1 consideration" to play left guard.
Maryland rushed for a season-high 246 yards. Defensive tackle Joe Vellano had 20 tackles. Edsall said Vellano turned in "one of the most outstanding performances that I think I've ever seen" by a defensive lineman.
Maryland passers combined for six completions — and one came on a trick play in which Tony Logan threw a 34-yard completion. Asked about the struggles, Edsall said: "We just need everybody offensively to go out and execute their assignment."
Undefeated Clemson at Byrd Stadium on Saturday at 7 p.m. Tigers starting quarterback Tajh Boyd (hip) is questionable.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun