Welcome back, Tyrrell Pigrome.
Almost three years removed from his last season as the quarterback for the Maryland football team, Pigrome has returned to the state — this time trying his hand at Towson.
Is it strange to be back in the area where it all started? Pigrome doesn’t think so.
“I don’t look at it that way,” the Birmingham, Alabama, native said. “I just look at it as a new opportunity. A new opportunity means new blessings. I’m just getting to do what I do and pursue new opportunities in my life. So it doesn’t feel weird at all.”
The Tigers have six quarterbacks on their roster, but Pigrome, 24, and UAB graduate student transfer Tyler Johnson III, who helped the Blazers capture a pair of Conference USA titles in 2018 and 2020, appear to be the leading candidates to start in the season opener at Bucknell on Sept. 3. Coach Rob Ambrose said he can’t bring himself to call Pigrome “Piggy” or “Swine” or any of the other hog-related nicknames his teammates have conjured up, but Ambrose said the Mississippi transfer has raised the level of competition among the quarterbacks.
“He’s clearly talented,” he said. “It’s not like I haven’t seen him before. But the cool part about him is, just like everybody else, he sees that it’s his job to meld himself to the program and the people in it, and he’s doing a really good job. He’s picking up the language pretty quick, and he’s one of those six guys where it’s the Quarterback of the Day to where I could say, ‘If that guy started, we’d beat everybody.’”
Pigrome is familiar to college football fans in the state for his four-year run with the Terps. He became the first quarterback in school history to start a game in four seasons, accounting for 1,777 passing yards, 630 rushing yards and 17 total touchdowns in 34 games.
In his final year in College Park in 2019 — coach Mike Locksley’s first season — Pigrome appeared in 11 of 12 games and started three, completing 58.5% of his passes (69 of 118) for 719 yards with three touchdowns and six interceptions and rushing 45 times for 153 yards and two scores. Maryland finished 3-9 overall and 1-8 in the Big Ten Conference.
Pigrome said he enjoyed mixed results at Maryland, where he was 1-6 as a starter. He helped lead a season-opening victory at No. 23 Texas in 2017 before suffering a season-ending torn ACL. Then, filling in for an injured Kasim Hill a year later, he almost led the Terps to a win over No. 9 Ohio State in a 52-51 overtime thriller.
“It was on and off, and it was my time to leave,” he said. “It was my time to explore new options and see what was out there in the world and get new opportunities.”
Locksley said he would not try to convince a player to stay if his mind is set on leaving.
“For Piggy, coming in and learning a new system and new philosophies, they don’t always fit,” he said. “From our standpoint, we would have enjoyed having him here. But I never had a conversation with him as to why, and to be honest, it didn’t matter.”
Pigrome then landed at Western Kentucky, where he was the primary starter in 2020. He completed 57.6% of his passes (171 of 297) for 1,603 yards with nine touchdowns and two interceptions and rushed 105 times for 337 yards and four scores as the Hilltoppers finished 5-7 and lost to Georgia State in the LendingTree Bowl.
He said that season reinvigorated him.
“I don’t want to say that felt like a test year for me as a starting quarterback for the whole year, but I got to see how to go about things as the [No. 1] guy,” he said. “I got to learn new things just by being there.”
Pigrome then transferred to Ole Miss as a walk-on. Even though he didn’t play in a game in 2021 as the Rebels finished 10-3 and reached the Sugar Bowl, he said learning from coach Lane Kiffin and offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby was rewarding.
“Their offense was kind of different,” Pigrome said of a unit that finished top 25 nationally in points (33.7), passing yards (274.8) and total offense (492.5) behind quarterback Matt Corral, a third-round draft pick of the Carolina Panthers. “I had never seen it like that. It was a growing experience. You just wanted to know how people talk and how they identified defenses and everything and how they read everything. It was a plus opportunity just to see how somebody else thinks.”
Uncertainty about another year of eligibility — granted to all players after the coronavirus pandemic impacted the 2020 season — left Pigrome thinking he needed to find a new destination. After entering the transfer portal in April, Pigrome said Towson’s commitment to bring him in differed from mild enthusiasm from Football Bowl Subdivision programs such as Georgia Tech, Hawaii, Jacksonville State and Memphis.
“They were very upfront,” Pigrome recalled. “Coach Ambrose kept telling me, ‘Do what you’ve got to do.’ … All of them were saying to just stay in contact with them and talk to them. But Towson was so confident about it and so upfront about it. It was like a sure thing at the time.”
Playing for his sixth offensive coordinator in Tyree Foreman, Pigrome had some uneven results during Wednesday’s practice open to media. During a red-zone exercise, he would have been sacked by redshirt senior linebacker Ryan Kearney (Howard) during one snap and then slipped while scrambling to his left and was tagged down by redshirt sophomore linebacker Keith Bagwell (Poly) during another.
But Pigrome threaded a pass to redshirt senior tight end Robert Schwob (Broadneck) in zone coverage during the same drill. Earlier, he connected with redshirt junior wide receiver Matthew Akuchie, who got behind the secondary, for a touchdown during a seven-on-seven exercise.
“He’s still a baller in my opinion,” said Schwob, who played with Pigrome at Maryland from 2017 to 2019. “He hasn’t played maybe in a game, but he was still getting reps [at Ole Miss]. He looks as good as new when he’s playing. I don’t think any time off has affected him.”
Pigrome also has sought to bond with his teammates. When graduate student right tackle Julian Singh committed a false start to draw the ire of a few coaches, Pigrome emphatically clapped his hands and shouted words of encouragement at Singh.
Ambrose said Pigrome and Johnson have shown their younger quarterback teammates how to play the position.
“Both of them come to that room with experience and confidence,” he said. “But they’re also smart enough to have some degree of humbleness that there’s stuff there they don’t know, and they do a good job learning, and they do a great job teaching and leading. I couldn’t be more pleased.”
Pigrome said his top priority is immersing himself in the playbook to improve his play on the field. That’s part of the reason why he said he hasn’t concerned himself with his position on the depth chart.
“I’m just learning here and having fun,” he said. “I just want to better myself. This is a new opportunity for me, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. For now, I just want to enjoy the moment, enjoy the guys, and compete with the guys.”
As a former safety who finished his career 19th in Tigers history in all-time tackles and was the 1991 squad’s Defensive Most Valuable Player, Locksley has more than a rooting interest in Pigrome finding success at Towson.
“I think Piggy’s playmaking abilities with his arm and feet are some things that put a lot of pressure on defenses, and he’s done it at the highest level,” he said. “Where Towson plays, I think he’ll be a great addition there, and my hope is that he’ll return Towson to where they’ve been before so that they can compete against the best teams at that level.”
Saturday, Sept. 3, 6 p.m.