Titus Till grew up dreaming of playing football at the next level. He just didn't think it would be the American version of the sport.
Much of Till's childhood was spent in Italy, where his father, Durward Till III, was stationed at the Aviano Air Base. For sport, Till turned to Italy's national pastime.
"Soccer was my first sport," Till said. "When I was a child I used to go to the playground. We lived in an Italian neighborhood. Just as you see on TV and movies, I'd be playing [soccer] with the Italian kids. That's all they do.
"So I always thought I would play on a professional scale as a soccer player. I always saw myself on TV running down the field with a soccer ball at my feet. ... I was talking to my parents the other day, and they never envisioned [me playing Division I football]."
In about a year and a half, that's exactly what Till will do. He committed to Maryland on Saturday, becoming the first member of the Terps' 2010 football recruiting class. The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder from Wise High School in Upper Marlboro picked up the UM offer in December.
"I had been thinking about [committing] over the small period of time before I went and visited [College Park last weekend]," Till said. "I didn't tell [the coaching staff that I wanted to commit] when I got there. I waited until the end just to make sure it was the right decision. They showed me the football facilities and I talked to coach [Ralph] Friedgen and coach [Don] Brown, the new defensive coordinator. I just liked the whole atmosphere and [committing] was the whole exclamation mark at the end of the visit."
Till was born in Anchorage, Alaska and lived there for a year and a half before moving to Okinawa, Japan. After three years in Japan, the Tills moved to Italy, where they remained for seven-plus years. Till gave up soccer for football in seventh grade when his family moved from Italy to Medical Lake, Wash. He played quarterback as a seventh grader before moving to Maryland for his eighth grade year. The Till family spent six months in Annapolis before settling in Upper Marlboro. His first year playing safety on a full-time basis was as a 10th grader at Wise.
Wise head coach DaLawn Parrish, a former Baltimore Sun All-Metro selection at Howard High School, thinks Till's best days are ahead of him.
"He's an outstanding player," Parrish said. "But I believe his best football is ahead of him because he does so much. He's an outstanding citizen in the school. He has a 3.5 GPA, he [plays saxophone] in the jazz band, does acting, he's in the theater classes, plays basketball, runs track. So he does so many different things. In college he'll be able to focus on one thing. I'm sure he'll excel from that point on."
A two-year starter at free safety, Till recorded 30 solo tackles, 35 assists, two tackles for loss, one interception, five pass breakups, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery as a junior. Offensively he caught five passes for 32 yards in a possession receiver role. He also punted 23 times for a 37-yard average, landing 10 punts inside the 20-yard line.
With Parrish as his coach for the last two-plus years, Till has received expert instruction in playing free safety from a four-year standout at Wake Forest. Parrish, a defensive back for the Demon Deacons from 1995-99, says he sees plenty of attributes in Till's game that will translate well to the ACC.
"He hits like a truck," Parrish said. "He comes downhill and gets his pad level right. To be 6-2 and be able to get his pad level under the opponents' pads [is impressive]. He reacts well coming out of the break and attacks that high point. He's a leader in the secondary and does a great job with that. He does everything a safety's supposed to do. He's going to develop into a cover-2 safety. He's very good in man-to-man situations when he's on the ball. He's so smart, and it wouldn't surprise me if he weighed in at 215 or 220 [once he enrolls at UM]."
Till still has another football season (plus one and a half basketball seasons, two years of track and plenty of additional jazz band concerts and theater performances) before he enrolls at UM. But Till said there's no doubt in his mind that he made the right choice in committing so early.
"It basically just ties into wanting to have a great team," Till said. "I want to go somewhere where there are going to be a lot of great players around me. If I set myself out there, it shows [other players] they need to commit early so they know who's going to be on the team. I'm looking at this as a team aspect thing, but also to help Maryland in the future. ... I just feel very blessed to be in this position right now and just have the opportunity to get it out of the way. It's just a wonderful opportunity."