Might Jordan Steffy's college football story have a happy ending after all?
It seemed the fifth-year quarterback's college football career was all but over. But then, as Maryland (7-5) practiced recently for tomorrow's Humanitarian Bowl matchup with Nevada (7-5), Steffy's name surfaced in a media question-and-answer question with coach Ralph Friedgen.
Asked who his backup quarterback was, Friedgen replied that it was "probably" Steffy, who hasn't played since fracturing his right thumb in Maryland's season-opening victory over Delaware.
The answer surprised some media members who had presumed that Josh Portis was in line to replace starter Chris Turner if Turner were injured or pulled from the game.
Friedgen isn't shy about expressing affection for Steffy and would love to get him into a final game if circumstances allow. "I love the kid," the coach said.
Friedgen had made a promise about Steffy after the Delaware game while the quarterback was awaiting X-ray results on his injured thumb.
"I can tell you this. Regardless of who plays this week or next week or whatever, Jordan will come in and win the game for us before the season's over. I promise you that," Friedgen said at the time.
It turns out Friedgen never forgot about that pledge. He reminded reporters several weeks ago that "I've said all along" Steffy would return. Then the coach said, "It wouldn't surprise me if this [the Humanitarian Bowl] is the one."
Steffy said he would be happy to play in his last game. "Sure, it would be nice if it happened. But I don't focus on how the ending is going to be. I just go out and work hard every day," the quarterback said.
If he gets in, Steffy won't be able to grip the football as he once did. But he can still throw.
"I'm not going to be 100 percent until I have surgery after the season. But I'm able to grip the ball," he said. "I can pretty much do everything. It's just that I don't have the strength and the power in my hand because the ligaments are still being torn."
Steffy doesn't know what happened in the Delaware game to break the thumb. He asked to be relieved in the second half because he was having trouble holding the ball. He was a fixture on the sideline after that, often helping communicate plays to Turner from offensive coordinator James Franklin.
Steffy, a graduate student in real-estate development, has been determined to stay upbeat despite the injury.
He had lost the starting job in 2007, too, because of a concussion. With one year of eligibility remaining, he returned, he said, because "it was important for me to finish this chapter of my life."
Even if he doesn't play tomorrow, Steffy said, his year won't be ruined. For him, the big picture includes founding and developing a center in his Pennsylvania hometown where needy youths can get help with their homework or find emotional support.
Steffy will appear at halftime of the Sugar Bowl to receive an award from Allstate Insurance Company and the American Football Coaches Association for his charity work.
"Good things happen in the end in every situation. I truly believe that," Steffy said. "Regardless of how bad things may seem, if you hang in there, good will come out of it."
Notes: : Next year's Humanitarian Bowl will not have an Atlantic Coast Conference tie-in.
"We know it's very expensive to bring teams out west," said Kevin McDonald, executive director of the game in Boise, Idaho. "The ACC already brings a team out to the Emerald Bowl [in San Francisco]." Next year's game is expected to pair the Western Athletic Conference with the Mountain West. ... Maryland's band and a group of athletic officials arrived in Boise on Friday, but their luggage did not. The luggage apparently was diverted to the wrong flight.
MARYLAND (7-5) vs. NEVADA (7-5)
Radio: 105.7 FM, 1300 AM
Line: Nevada by 2