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Abdul-Rahim returns to Maryland to coach defensive backs

When he was an assistant at Michigan, Florida and Stanford, DJ Durkin was thinking about the opportunity he could eventually get to become a head coach at a major program and what he would do when that time came. So over the years, when he met another coach he was impressed by, he'd make a note of it.

When he became Maryland's coach in early December, Durkin knew he was going to call Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, the former Friendship Collegiate Academy coach who has extensive ties to the area. And Abdul-Rahim accepted Durkin's overture to become the Terps' defensive backs coach, giving Durkin a coach with deep roots in the area coaching a position he has a track record of success coaching.

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"I jotted down his name a long time ago," Durkin said in December. "I said, when I have an opportunity, that's a guy I want to have as part of my staff because I know what he's all about, the type of person and coach he is."

Abdul-Rahim founded Friendship's football program in 2004 and turned it into a powerhouse producing some of the area's top players year after year. Maryland had four Friendship alums on its 2015 squad in defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, middle linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr., offensive lineman Derwin Gray, and defensive lineman Cavon Walker.

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Those were players Abdul-Rahim developed and help bring to the next level. In his time at Friendship, 100 players earned football scholarships. That success made him a known commodity in the Washington, D.C., area, so much so that Nick Saban hired him to be a defensive analyst and then assistant director of player personnel at Alabama.

"Aazaar has such a tie to the DMV, to this area, to the city," Durkin said. "He's done an incredible amount for the kids of this area and I think people understand that. They know that. He's a product of this area. For him to be part of this staff and back home, I think people really feel that's special."

Abdul-Rahim attended Dunbar High School in the District and eventually played two seasons at San Diego State. He founded Cover One, a defensive back academy that has worked with a number of NFL players. Now he'll impart his knowledge on a Maryland defensive backfield that's losing three starters, though All-Big Ten cornerback Will Likely announced he would return for his senior season.

The rest of the Maryland coaching staff is impressed with Abdul-Rahim's background, especially defensive coordinator Scott Shafer, who was the son of a high school football coach in northeast Ohio.

"Aazaar's had more responsibilities than any of us. … You do everything," Shafer said. "You're not just calling the plays on Friday night. You're making sure that the laundry's washed, you're lining the football fields. You're making sure that the locker room's mopped up after the kids take a shower. You're cleaning up. You're doing everything and anything."

Abdul-Rahim's duties in College Park will be a little different than the last time he was a coach in the area. But he's an important cog on the Maryland staff, especially when it comes to recruiting and filling the local void left by former offensive coordinator Mike Locksley's departure.

But Durkin and the Terps are counting on Abdul-Rahim. They'll need him to tighten up a secondary that was gashed at times during the fall's 3-9 season. And they'll need him to help keep some of talent in the area's fertile football recruiting grounds home to play in Maryland Stadium.

"He's developed a lot of players, developed a lot of relationships in and around the D.C., [Prince George's County], Maryland area, which is important and significant for us," associate head coach and defensive line coach Mike London said. "There's some good coaches over here that left, but now there's good coaches over here that have to maintain and hold on and we've got to be significantly better with our relationships with these area coaches. Aazaar, again, has a great reputation with having been a guy here. Now he's on our staff and has to be one of the lead guys."

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