Quarterback Danny O'Brien signed with Maryland in 2009 in part because of Ralph Friedgen. O'Brien wanted to win in college and play in the pros, and it wasn't unreasonable to believe the longtime Terps coach would be there for him, helping him, from his freshman-year snaps to his Senior Day game. Where else would they go?
We know those answers now, and so their reunion Saturday doesn't seem all that bizarre. But to have Friedgen, happily unemployed and the coach of the Medal of Honor Bowl's American team, game-planning at a largely unheard-of senior showcase with O'Brien, a senior at Division II Catawba College (N.C.), would have been unthinkable not long ago.
"It's been cool to be back with Coach," O'Brien told The Post and Courier (S.C.). "It's almost like a reunion of old Maryland guys."
Their paths to the Charleston, S.C., game went through College Park. Friedgen was fired after a 9-4 season in 2010, his last in coaching. O'Brien, the ACC Rookie of the Year in 2010, left in 2012 after a disappointing 2011 season under first-year coach Randy Edsall.
He ended up in Wisconsin, where he was eligible to play immediately. After only three games, he was on the bench. He transferred in June to Catawba, to be closer to home in Kernersville, N.C.
With the Indians, O'Brien threw for 2,490 yards, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions on 67.9 percent passing. In his final college season, the Indians went 6-5.
"I definitely feel I have something to prove," he told the Post and Courier as he prepared for the game, which more than 100 NFL scouts reportedly will attend. "Some of that is being from a small school like Catawba, and I'm proud to say that. Any time a guy has transferred twice, there are going to be some question marks. So I need to get out and prove that I can be a good quarterback, I can make all the throws, and I can digest an offense and lead a team."
"It's been a crazy ride," O'Brien told the paper. "But I've learned a lot along the way and I'm a tougher guy mentally because of all the places I've been."