Will Likely bypassed second-semester high school senioritis in favor of a head start on his 2013 college classmates by enrolling at Maryland last month. The transition from Belle Glade, Fla., to College Park has been smooth so far for the four-star cornerback, save for one obvious exception.
"I've been freezing. Nah, I'm just playing," Likely joked Wednesday after Maryland's annual Signing Day news conference. "I'm adjusting to the cold. It's not that serious. I dress up. My mom calls me every morning, makes sure I'm dressed up. So I've got to abide by those rules, even though I'm gone."
Likely is the Terps' lone high school-aged early enrollee. He came to Maryland from Muck City, an area on the shore of Lake Okeechobee made famous for football-players-in-training chasing – and in Likely's case, according to Randy Edsall – catching rabbits. Likely says he's the first person from Glades Central High to go to Maryland, and the weather here and university surroundings remind him every day just how far away he is from home.
He originally pictured himself ending up at Florida State, and as he progressed through Pop Warner football to Glades Central's varsity team as a freshman, that possibility seemed increasingly – for lack of a better word – likely. But Maryland stood out to Likely for a number of reasons.
"No. 1, it's the education," said Likely, who Edsall called 'an excellent student.' "They're an up-and-coming program. They're a good program. The tragedy that happened last year with the four quarterbacks, I think the record could have been better. This year we're looking to stand out and prove people wrong."
Proving people wrong is something Likely has become accustomed to over the years. Perhaps generously listed at 5 feet 9, 175 pounds by Maryland media relations, Likely seems familiar with a commonly repeated narrative from recruiting analysts that if he were three or four inches taller, he might be a Top 10 prospect nationally.
"I mean, it kind of hurt me a little bit because I thought I was better than some of those [more highly ranked] guys," said Likely, who is rated by Rivals.com as the No. 203 prospect nationally and the No. 17 cornerback. "I competed with the best, I showed my skills. The other players respect that, but I guess that's just the media, you know? But I don't really look at that. I just go out and play my game, because what if I was three-to-four inches taller? I probably wouldn't be better than I am right now. So every day I'm not worrying about that. I'm just looking to get better and better every day.
"For the schools that still recruited me, I took my hat off to them because that just shows that size don't mean nothing. If you can play you can play. That's all that really matters."
Said Rivals.com's Mike Farrell: "He's a tremendous athlete and a lot of fun to watch. He could be a special teams guy, and he's a guy with a chip on his shoulder who will want to cover a 6-2 guy to show he can do it."
Likely hopes to play for the Terps as a true freshman, and if Edsall's Signing Day comments are any indication, it seems like a good bet that the cornerback will see the field come fall. He joins a Maryland secondary that returns starting cornerbacks Dexter McDougle and Jeremiah Johnson. Edsall said Wednesday that Likely will challenge for time at the nickel spot and could be a factor in the return game eventually.
"I'll try to do everything I can: shut down receivers – that's what I came for – and be an impact [player] on special teams," Likely said. "I see myself playing the nickel back in the field. I'm just going out to compete ... get better every day and just earn a spot on the field."