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Three years into his career, Lane breaking through at Maryland

Maryland wide receiver DeAndre Lane (13) celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Penn State, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015, in Baltimore.
Maryland wide receiver DeAndre Lane (13) celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Penn State, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015, in Baltimore. (Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

COLLEGE PARK — It would have been easy for DeAndre Lane to transfer and leave Maryland at any point during the past two years. After appearing in four games while battling a hamstring injury during his freshman year in 2013, he appeared in only the season opener last season. He could have elected to go down a level to the Football Championship Subdivision or try his luck somewhere else where he could play immediately.

But Lane decided to stick it out. And now, three-quarters of the way into the season and almost three years into his college career, he's reaping the results.

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Lane made the first catch of his college career on Oct. 10 at then-No. 1 Ohio State. Two weeks later, he caught his first career touchdown pass on a toe-tapping 10-yarder against Penn State at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. And against Wisconsin last week, Lane set career highs with three catches for 63 yards, including a sprawling 41-yard grab in the first half.

It took a while, but Lane became a contributor.

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"I felt comfortable here with all the coaches, the connections I've built, learning the playbook," Lane said Tuesday. "There's a whole lot [to] transferring. ... You'vegot to learn a whole new system, build all new relationships. I feel comfortable here. I'm going to stick it out until I graduate."

Lane's coach at Catonsville, Rich Hambor, isn't surprised at Lane's patience. He remembers when Lane was a talented sophomore running back, but the coaching staff decided to keep him on junior varsity to let him "dominate at that level" before bringing him up to varsity. Other players would have been tempted to look elsewhere for a different school where they could play right away. But not Lane.

At the end of a standout season on the JV team, Hambor brought Lane up to varsity for the regular-season finale. On his first carry, Lane ran for a touchdown. Later, he returned a kickoff for a touchdown.

"He saw what happened here at Catonsville and how it panned out well for him," Hambor said. "And really, he could have, in 10th grade said, 'The coaches didn't bring me up, I'm going to leave.' I think other people saw that talent in him. I think he just transferred that whole thing from high school right to Maryland and said, 'I'm going to stick this out.'"

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Lane's stature — Maryland lists him at 5-foot-7, 175 pounds — made him easy to overlook. He was a two-star recruit. No other major programs offered him a scholarship.

But Hambor knew he had a special player.

In his junior year, Lane rushed for 1,728 yards and 21 touchdowns to help Catonsville to a 12-1 season and a Baltimore County championship, a Maryland 4A North region title and a berth in the state semifinals. He was known as a speedster, but his small frame didn't wither while carrying the ball 228 times. That was when Hambor realized he had someone special, someone who would set a program record with 38 touchdowns.

Maryland offered Lane a scholarship in June 2012 after he impressed former coach Randy Edsall at a summer camp, and Lane was set to be a Terp.

After Lane appeared in the second game of the 2013 season, a blowout win over Old Dominion, it would be more than two years before his first career catch and touchdown.

"I did great frustrated," Lane said. "I didn't think I wouldn't get the opportunity. It kind of just hurt, especially when we lost, knowing that I wasn't in the game, so I couldn't do anything to possibly help change it. … It just hurts when you watch your team lose and you can't contribute."

While his Maryland career was stuck in neutral, Lane made significant growth off the field. His daughter was born in February. Everything was about more than football, about more than him.

"I was like, 'I'm not just doing this for myself anymore,'" Lane said. "I got somebody else to take care of, so it's just kind of extra motivation."

"I realized I can't just be about me anymore," Lane said later. "I have somebody else to take care of off the field, too. I've been working harder in class. I know that I've got to provide for her. I've got to make sure she's OK."

When interim coach Mike Locksley took over after Randy Edsall was fired on Oct. 11, he started giving more players time on the field in specific roles, including Lane. Locksley wanted little-used players to have something to strive for in practice and in games. And soon enough, Lane got his shot in Locksley's first game as coach against Penn State.

Late in the third quarter, Lane lined on the left side with tight end Avery Edwards to his inside and wide receiver Malcolm Culmer on the outside. At the snap, Culmer stepped back and quarterback Perry Hills faked in his direction. That freed Lane to run to the corner of the end zone where he made a spinning catch, tapping his feet just inside the sideline, to put Maryland up 27-24. It was Lane's first touchdown since high school.

"I think D-Lane just did a great job of coming in and taking advantage of his opportunity," wide receiver Levern Jacobs said. "I'm proud of him. He worked his butt off all year. It was good timing. He's been working his butt off. I think he deserved the spotlight right now."

It's been an uncertain journey for Lane. There was plenty of watching and waiting and wondering if he was ever going to get his shot. But he knew that when he did get that chance, he couldn't let go.

It's like his career-long catch against Wisconsin. Lane beat the safety up the seam on the right side, and Hills' pass was just a little too far out in front. But Lane wasn't going to let the chance go. So he leapt and snared the ball, cradling it in his right arm as he hit the turf.

"I can make the plays," Lane said. "I can be on the field. I can help produce. Once I got my first opportunity, I was like, from here on out, I've got to keep making plays, no matter what.

"Ball's in the air, I've got to go get it."

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