COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland senior wide receiver Marcus Badgett walked out of the football building yesterday and into an array of lights, cameras and reporters.
"What is this, media day?" Badgett joked. .
Not quite, but Badgett is a hot commodity.
He caught nine passes for 218 yards, including a 38-yard "Hail Mary" touchdown pass from quarterback John Kaleo as time expired in Maryland's 27-25 win over Duke on Saturday.
Badgett, 6 feet 1 and 188 pounds, is the nation's leading receiver in yards per game averaging 127. He is second in the country in receptions per game with 7.6.
This morning, Maryland athletic officials will start a campaign to get Badgett named an All-American.
"Would I be a definite All-American if we were 7-1?" Badgett asked.
Then after some thought, he jokingly said: "I'm used to following the Heisman race, not being in one. This M carved on my front gold tooth stands for Marcus, but at the beginning of the season, I told everyone it stood for Maryland. This week it stands for Mary, as in Hail Mary. Seriously, it's nice getting all the attention."
Badgett can expect more in the remaining three games, including the one Saturday against No. 22 North Carolina at Byrd Stadium.
He drew single coverage in Maryland's winning drive against Duke that started on the Terps' 11-yard line with 24 seconds left.
On third down from the 11 with 13 seconds left, Badgett, while running backward, took the ball out of the hands of Duke cornerback Jamal Ellis, bobbled it and then pulled it in for a 51-yard gain down the right sideline.
On the next play, Badgett outleaped Ellis, who had fallen, for the touchdown in the right corner of the end zone.
"Hopefully, it's a play that can have some impact on the program," said Badgett, who also had a 50-yard touchdown reception in the Duke game.
"Hopefully, it can help get things rolling along where we can return to the proud and winning tradition Maryland once had.
"I've only seen double coverage at times this year, only after I made big catches," he said. "I'm pretty sure I'll be seeing more."
Actually Badgett, who spent most of the last three years on the bench, started making big plays at the end of the 1990 season when he caught a 71-yard pass from Scott Zolak in the fourth quarter of the last game against Virginia. Running back Mark Mason scored on the next play for the touchdown that gave Maryland a 35-30 win and a trip to the Poulan-Weed Eater Independence Bowl.
Badgett played part-time last year behind Gene "Prime Time" Thomas. He one-handed a 58-yard touchdown pass against Pitt in the fourth game, had four catches in the fifth game against Duke, and his clutch 20-yard, one-handed reception on a fourth down set up the winning touchdown in the closing seconds against Wake Forest in the sixth game.
"It was after the Pitt game that I wanted the ball more, I wanted it in money time," Badgett said. "I think I thrive in that situation."
Badgett, though, had to wait.
Then along came new coach Mark Duffner and the run-and-shoot offense last January.
"It's an offense that any receiver loves to be in," said Badgett, who has seven touchdowns this season.
Does the offense make Badgett or does Badgett help make the offense? It seems like a perfect fit. Badgett is not overly fast, but he runs precise patterns and has the ability to find soft spots in zones.
"First and foremost, Marcus Badgett is a person with tremendous character," Duffner said. "He practices at a fast tempo, knows the plays and his alignment. He's a student of the game with quick hand speed and concentration. He has good speed [4.55 in 40 yards] and can block very well. It's the chemistry of the young man that makes him succeed."
"We have the utmost confidence in him," guard Ron Staffileno said. "Marcus is a great leader. But he not only talks the talk, but he answers the talk with action."
In one season, he has gone from an unknown to All-American hopeful and possible National Football League draft pick.
"He's got tremendous hands and concentration, and can do something with the ball once he catches it," said Mel Kiper Jr., a college football commentator and NFL draft analyst for ESPN.
"He's gone from nowhere to possibly a seventh-, eighth- or ninth-round draft pick. He's done well and made a name for himself."
NOTES: Duffner said sophomore RB Larry Washington, from Randallstown, probably will not play for the rest of the season. Washington suffered ligament damage to his right knee in the fifth game against Pitt. Maryland senior starting CB/S Scott Rosen (sprained ankle) practiced with the team during a light workout Monday, but is questionable for Saturday along with starting senior S Andre Vaughn (neck). Vaughn, from Oakland Mills, is expected to get a medical re-evaluation today.
The gift of grab
Maryland's Marcus Badgett is the nation's leading receiver, gaining 127 yards per game. His season to date:
;1Opponent.. .. .. .. ..Rec... ...Yds... .. ...TD
Virginia.. .. .. .. ...7.. .. ..66.. .. .. ...1
N.C. State.. .. .. .. .5.. .. ..65.. .. .. .. 0
W. Virginia.. .. .. ...5.. .. ..68.. .. .. .. 1
Penn State.. .. .. .. 10.. .. .132.. .. .. .. 0
Pittsburgh.. .. .. .. 11.. .. .251.. .. .. ...2
Georgia Tech.. .. .. ..3.. .. ..29.. .. .. ...0
Wake Forest.. .. .. ..11.. .. .187.. .. .. ...1
Duke.. .. .. .. .. .. .9.. .. .213.. .. .. ...2
1992-x.. .. .. .. .. .61.. ..1,016.. .. .. .. 7
Career... .. .. .. ...86.. ..1,519.. .. .. .. 8