COLLEGE PARK ——New Maryland football coach Randy Edsall has three preset buttons on his car radio: sports talk, news talk and country.
But none of those options appealed to Davin Meggett, the fourth-year captain who Edsall says will be his "workhorse" running back this season. So when Meggett rode with Edsall to a recent Baltimore appearance, the player not only switched the station but later seized the opportunity to call out his coach.
The episode — whose retelling elicits a smile and head shake from Edsall — is vintage Meggett, an enigmatic player prone to candor, bravado, offbeat humor and, occasionally, baffling remarks.
Asked Tuesday if he is "goofing" when he seems to try to upstage Edsall, Meggett replied with a straight face. "Goofing? These aren't jokes. This is my program. I let him know what's up, I tell him what we're doing. Obviously he has the final say-so, but still," the player said.
Meggett has long seemed determined to be judged not by the family name but on his own merits. Meggett's father, David, 45, a two-time NFL Pro Bowl selection after starring at Towson, began serving a 30-year term in South Carolina last November on a criminal sex conduct charge arising from an incident involving a young woman. His projected parole date is July 2034.
"I've never gone to visit him. That may be my fault," said the player, who grew up in Prince George's County with his mother, Victoria Davis, and his stepfather, John Davis. "He's my biological father and I'll always have a certain amount of respect for him. He taught me a lot about life. Hopefully if I get some time and get a chance, I'd love to go down there. We'll see what happens."
Meggett has succeeded in his father's absence. His 720 rushing yards and 5.7 average last season were career bests. He said he's dropped about 10 pounds from his 2010 playing weight of 215 and seems poised for a big year as the Terps try to top last season's 9-4 record.
Meggett and the other three captains coined the 2011 team's slogan — "No excuses, just play" — which adorns the back of players' T-shirts.
There are similarities to his father's early career. His father is 5 feet, 7 inches. He's about 5-9. The elder Meggett's talent wasn't always evident in the videos viewed by recruiters and scouts. Davin, too, tends to surprise people, particularly with his quickness.
"He runs as fast as he has to, but he never gets caught," Edsall said. "He's going to be the guy that has to carry the load for us."
Maryland lost tailback Da'Rel Scott, who competed as a sprinter during the indoor track and field season and is now with the NFL's New York Giants. Meggett considers himself more in the tradition of bulkier Terps running backs such as Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore. "They were all-purpose backs," Meggett said.
Meggett has distinguished himself not only with his play but his intelligence — and quirks.
A government and politics and sociology double-major, he graduated ahead of schedule last spring but opted to return for his final year of eligibility. He has expressed interest in law school and international relations if an NFL career doesn't work out — or perhaps even if it does.
"He's one of the smartest guys I've ever met," fellow running back D.J. Adams said. "We get a new playbook and I've never seen him open the book, but he knows everything."
Even friends admit that Meggett can take some getting used to.
"I've known Meggett since we were 13-years-old and he hasn't changed at all. He likes to talk," said senior linebacker Kenny Tate.
In 2009, Meggett and Tate donned surgical masks during a period in which the university was concerned about students catching the H1N1 virus.
It wasn't clear to reporters — who spotted Meggett wearing the light-blue mask in the football complex — whether he was playing a prank or was genuinely worried about getting sick.
"He brought me on, too" Tate said. "He said, 'Put this mask on and run.' We were disinfecting everything. We did our room four or five times."
So was Meggett half-serious and half-joking?
"Exactly," Tate said. "And that's how he is."