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Sports Terps

Terps wrestler Spencer Myers hopes to become a heavyweight in football

COLLEGE PARK — For four years, Spencer Myers' fall Saturdays usually played out the same way.

Maryland wrestling practice was in the morning. After that, Myers was unreachable.

"My parents would joke that if they tried to get hold of me on a Saturday, there was no way they could get hold of me," Myers said. "I have to be at wrestling practice from 10 to noon. After that, I'm gone for the rest of the day, sitting in my room watching football."

Myers came to Maryland in 2010 to wrestle. He was an All-American and Atlantic Coast Conference champion as a freshman, defended his league heavyweight crown as a sophomore and went 24-6 last season, his first since redshirting a year to rehabilitate his knee.

But he never lost his passion for football, and now the 6-foot-4, 275-pound rising senior is hoping to do more than just watch the sport on Saturdays.

Myers joined the Terps' football team in July, and the start of preseason practice last week marked his his first involvement in organized football since he was named the Pennsylvania Football News Class AAA Defensive Player of the Year as a senior at Selinsgrove High School for the 2009-10 season.

Maryland lists Myers at defensive end, his primary position in high school. He has worked mostly with the third-team defense through the early part of preseason practice, but coach Randy Edsall likes what he has seen.

"I see a guy that's got high energy," Edsall said. "He's got a really good motor. He's relentless and chases the ball. He plays with good leverage. … I've been pleased with him so far."

Myers' plan always had been to wrestle in college and try out for the NFL after his senior year. But he never thought he would play at Maryland.

An assistant coach from Ralph Friedgen's staff approached Myers about playing in 2010, but Myers was focused strictly on wrestling.

He said he received scholarship offers in football after a standout senior-year all-star game. By then, though, he already had signed to wrestle at Maryland.

"I'm a big person on sticking to your word," Myers said.

Then this opportunity came about.

Myers expressed interest in playing to some Terps players and assistant coaches. Word reached Edsall, who thought highly enough of Myers to give him a scholarship and a place on the team.

Edsall knew about Myers in high school. But, as the coach noted, Myers weighed only 212 pounds as a senior at Selinsgrove. Now he looks less out of place on a college defensive line.

"I had seen him around campus prior to him even joining the team," Terps cornerback Jeremiah Johnson said, "and I just remember always thinking, like: 'He's huge.' "

Myers likens his body type to that of Bane from "The Dark Knight Rises," a hulking villain with large, muscular arms and defined back and shoulder muscles. He even went as Bane for the past two Halloweens, complete with the character's signature mask.

"It's been fun," Myers said. "I scared a few teachers, almost got kicked out of a couple classes for it. I'll walk up the side of the road with that costume real quick and people will walk to the other side real quick."

Myers said he has tried to model his body after Bane, Maryland wrestling coach and former Olympian Kerry McCoy, and wrestler and former mixed martial artist Brock Lesnar. Following workout routines McCoy and Lesnar used, he went from being a 212-pound college freshman to weighing as much as 290.

Myers said he typically spends six to eight hours a day either lifting weights, wrestling, playing football or preparing for one of his two sports.

"That's one of my best suits, is that I'm strong. I'm powerful," Myers said.

Myers pushed his way into the backfield and batted down a pass during the Terps' first practice of preseason camp Monday. He also used his strength, leverage and hand skills to get into the backfield several times during team drills Wednesday.

"I wouldn't say I'm surprised, because any time you get involved with someone who has a passion and a want-to to do something, you are going to get pretty good results," Edsall said. "He's talented. He understands competition. He understands leverage. He's played the game before, and he was very successful at it. I think, playing that position he's playing and what he does from a wrestling standpoint, it's a pretty good relationship between the two."

The biggest challenge for Myers is balancing football and wrestling.

He will compete in football during the fall, but he will wrestle as well. Wrestling season doesn't start until November, but he said preseason practice begins this month.

"Before I accepted the scholarship, I sat down with Coach Edsall and my father, and we talked about how I needed to keep my commitment to wrestling since, like I said, one of the things that defines me is keeping your word," Myers said.

So the three constructed a schedule. On Mondays, typically a day off for the football team, Myers will lift weights in the morning with the wrestling team and go through wrestling practice in the afternoon. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, he will have football practice in the morning and wrestling practice in the afternoon. Fridays will depend on travel requirements for football. The football team plays every Saturday but two from Aug. 30 until Nov. 29. Sundays will have either football or wrestling practice in the morning, then the other in the afternoon.

Then there are Myers' academic obligations.

"I'll be going every day," Myers said.

After four years away from football, he said he does not feel rusty. But he has struggled at times. Early in the summer, Myers needed a week or so to get comfortable with a defensive line drill in which players swat an offensive lineman's hands away before dipping low, doing a semicircle around the lineman and hitting a tackling dummy.

"I was not getting that down at all," Myers said. "A bunch of times, I tried to flip my flips and my feet would slide out from under me, and I wasn't getting it. … That was probably one of the hardest parts."

Now he studies film and works on his technique on his own time to avoid any other issues. He also said he has benefited from offseason training focusing on movements that would help him in both wrestling and football.

"I see Spencer a lot," Maryland linebacker Cole Farrand said. "He's kind of getting used to the scheme, but he just goes and ends up making plays a lot of the time. He's doing his own thing, which is sometimes counterintuitive, but he makes plays, and I think he's going to be a playmaker this year. I'm excited to see what he can do."

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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