The Maryland coaches took it easy on Nick Ferrara at the beginning.
First Ferrara, a placekicker from St. Anthony's High School in Melville, N.Y., started off with three extra points -- one from the left hash, one from the right and one in the middle.
Ferrara was the only kicker at camp that day, but the full attention from Maryland's coaches didn't faze the 6-foot-1, 202-pounder. Ferrara steadily worked his way farther away from the goal posts, converting one kick after another.
By the time he reached 55 yards, Ferrara was 17-for-18. The Terps coaches gave him two bonus kicks. He promptly nailed the first, a 50-yarder, but then came up "just short" on a 58-yard attempt.
"I was kind of hyped up on adrenaline," Ferrara said. "They were very pleased with my performance. When I missed they didn't turn away, they patted me on the back and said, 'Nick, it's alright.' That gave me motivation and showed they supported me when I was there."
Maryland's coaches worked out another group of kickers the following day, but were pleased enough with Ferrara's performance last week to offer him a scholarship. He accepted the same day.
Ferrara, who has made three visits to College Park, spent much of his most recent trip to campus with the player he'll likely succeed at UM -- senior Obi Egekeze.
"[Egekeze] told me that it's a great place to be," Ferrara said. "During game days there's nothing like it. It doesn't hold as many fans as some stadiums, like Michigan or Penn State, but it gets louder in there. I saw how many fans came out for the spring game and saw how many fans support Maryland. It was amazing. And he told me about the business department and academics. He told me it was amazing."
As a junior at St. Anthony's, Ferrara was 3-for-3 on field goals with a long of 43 yards. He was perfect on extra points, sent 95 percent of his kickoffs for touchbacks and had a punting average of 45 yards. Ferrara's predecessor at St. Anthony's was former Terps walk-on Mike Barbour.
Part of Ferrara's kicking regiment includes training with former Rutgers kicker Lee McDonald, a DeMatha grad who owns and operates Special Teams Solutions, a training service for kickers, punters and long snappers. In his six years on the job, McDonald has sent kickers he's worked with to schools such as Alabama, North Carolina and Virginia Tech. But Ferrara, McDonald said, is "really the best kid" he's trained.
"Well, first of all, he's gifted," McDonald said. "He's got a great leg, great size, everything you look for physically in a kicker. Hands down, he's one of the top ten kids in the country, period. But at the same time, he's worked very hard. He trains year round. Whatever sort of outing he has, a camp or combine, anything else in a game, it's never quite good enough. So he's a perfectionist. This commitment to Maryland is something that, A, he deserves and B, is a huge commitment for [Maryland] because they're not going to find a kid better than him coming out of high school."
McDonald said he thinks Ferrara will be ready to contribute for Maryland immediately.
"Nick really has it all," McDonald said. "There are no flaws as to where he's at right now. And he can do all three (placekicking, kickoffs and punting) very well. I think the Maryland guys are really looking at him to come in right away and do kickoffs and placekicking. The punter will be a junior. He'll not have the pressure of doing all three, but Nick can do it certainly. ... The Terps are really making the right move offering a kid this early. He'll be able to step in for Obi. They're getting a heck of a kicker and punter. Maryland fans should be pretty excited."
With a limited amount of Division I scholarships going to kickers each year, Ferrara said he's incredibly thankful for the opportunity. And he's excited the opportunity comes from a school that already makes him "feel at home."
"It was just a great emotional experience," Ferrara said of earning the scholarship and committing. "It's every kid's dream to get a scholarship to a DI school and I finally completed that. Now I can hopefully perform well in my senior season and then go onto Maryland and perform well there."