Fritz Jacques left Lely High in Naples, Fla., in 2004 as a decorated strong safety and neighborhood hero to middle school-aged football players.
When Jacques returned to his hometown after serving as a four-year starter at Kent State, those admiring youth football players were "becoming superstars" in high school. And when Lely coach Dave Miller asked Jacques to return to his alma mater and coach defensive backs this season, the former Golden Flashes standout became reacquainted with Maryland cornerback commitment Makinton Dorleant.
"I used to see him around in the streets, running around," Jacques said. "When I [came back to Naples], I did hear a lot of negative about him – he doesn't work hard, stuff like that. When I started talking to him, we just caught a vibe real quick. He was not like how I heard. I think people misunderstand the kid sometimes. But he wasn't like a negative person; he was not like that at all. He matured a lot more from when he was a little kid, but I think he needed to mature a little more. He's becoming a man now. I think he needs to mature a little bit more, and I think Maryland is going to help him with that."Dorleant, who originally committed to Wisconsin, demonstrated Division I potential to Jacques right away. In a secondary that included one freshman and one sophomore starter, Dorleant was a leader and "an impact player." Jacques' biggest dilemma was figuring out which defensive back spot Dorleant would play.
"At first, he was getting recruited heavy at cornerback," Jacques said. "The thought was, let's play him at corner because that's where he's going to play at the next level. But a lot of teams stayed away from that corner. [I told him], 'Mak, I know that's where you're going to be playing at the next level, but we're going to play you at safety to roam the field.' He's that fast. He can close. When you watch him on film, he closed on running backs faster than linebackers. His speed, you can see the difference on film compared to a lot of kids here. It's just different. We have some fast kids around here, but on film, it's just crazy how fast he can close on the ball. That's why we had him at safety, so he could make more plays for us."
Despite missing four games with a sprained MCL, Dorleant finished his senior season with 42 tackles, 14 pass breakups, one interception and one fumble recovery. He also blocked two field goals and accumulated 652 yards of total offense getting snaps at running back and wide receiver. While Dorleant excelled individually, Lely struggled with youth and injuries, finishing the season with a 2-8 record. It was a disappointing end to the future Terp's high school career.
"I don't think it was the senior year he expected," Jacques said. "But it really made him learn to love the game and respect the game. These high school kids sometimes, they get a little big-headed. They get that shine, that fame, and they get a little hard-headed. But I think some of those situations that happened his senior year for football taught him to respect the game. Today it's here, tomorrow it could be gone. From August until now, I think he's matured. He became a young man already. I think he will be ready for more – I honestly believe that."
Jacques said he's looking forward to his second season on Lely's staff, but readily acknowledges that the Trojans will miss Dorleant's "play-making, game-changing" ability on defense and special teams. Jacques is ready, however, for Dorleant to leave Naples and embark on a successful college career with the Terps.
"Wherever you put him, he's going to make plays," Jacques said. "He likes to play football, so wherever Maryland decides to play him, he's going to make plays for them. I know that for a fact."