Texts were exchanged last week, friendly trash talk between Michigan cornerback Blake Countess and some of his former teammates in advance of Saturday's game between Maryland and the Wolverines.
The game has added meaning for Countess, a Reisterstown native who played high school football at Gilman and Good Counsel.
This is a chance for the redshirt junior to play against his home-state school and to showcase his skills to people around Maryland who do not get to watch him on a regular basis.
Countess will also get to compete with several friends and former teammates, including Terps safety Zach Dancel, running back Wes Brown and fullback Kenny Goins.
"Oh yeah. It's absolutely special, not only because of it being the home school but also just having friends on the team, close friends, guys that I would consider family on that team," Countess said during a phone interview. "It's going to be fun for us to all be on the same field again."
Countess' early playing days were spent suiting up for the Reisterstown Mustangs and Sykesville Raiders as he attended Cedarmere Elementary School and Franklin Middle School.
Countess transferred to Gilman for eighth grade and went there for three years before moving on to Good Counsel, where he spent his final two years of high school and developed into a four-star recruit. he chose to play for Michigan over offers from Maryland, Penn State, Tennessee and others.
Three years later, the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Countess is a key member of the talented Wolverinesdefense Maryland will face Saturday in Ann Arbor.
Countess started six games as a freshman in 2011. Last year, as a redshirt sophomore, he bounced back from a serious knee injury to tie for the Big Ten lead with six interceptions. And he is among the reasons Michigan is ranked eighth nationally in total defense this season.
"Blake is a very sound solid corner," Maryland coach Randy Edsall said. "He does a good job for them. You can see that he's been playing for a few years. He has good experience and does a good job."
A former U.S. Army All-American, Countess was selected first-team All-Big Ten after last season and was on the preseason watch lists for the Jim Thorpe Award (top defensive back) and the Bronco Nagurski Award (top defensive player) headinginto this year.
NFLDraftScout.com ranks Countess as the 12th-best cornerback prospect in the junior class.
"Blake is a very, very talented football player," said Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who was the Ravens' defensive coordinator and linebackers coach from 2008-10. "He's made his mark here at Michigan … and he continues to be a great leader. He's a tremendous person. He's what Michigan prides itself in, and that's to have really strong character kids that are very strong academically and will someday be very strong leaders in society, and he's just a definite example of that."
Mattison describes Countess as a versatile player who "has the ability to run man-to-man with people and also has the ability to cover and be physical at the point of attack."
"He's also very intelligent," Mattison said, "and he knows exactly what routes are coming when they're coming."
Countess will not get an opportunity to match up with close friend Stefon Diggs, Maryland's star wide receiver who will miss the Terps' final two regular season games while recovering from the lacerated kidney he suffered against Penn State on Nov. 1.
But Countess will look to prevent other friends such as Brown and Goins from making plays against Michigan's defense, as the Wolverines aim to win their third straight game and secure bowl eligibility after beginning the season 3-5.
"This is extremely important," Countess said. "We're 2-0 coming off the bye, and we're looking to go out here and win this game and become bowl eligible and then take it from there. This game means a lot for the program, for the season. It definitely means a lot, and we realize that."