COLLEGE PARK — Maryland safety Denzel Conyers has a clear memory of the play in practice last month that sent him to a waiting ambulance on a stretcher and then to a Baltimore hospital after suffering a concussion.
Speaking for the first time publicly since the injury occurred on Aug. 18, Conyers said that he got hurt after losing his footing and crashing hard – headfirst – into the back of one of the team's defensive lineman.
"Crazy scenario, could have happened to anybody," Conyers said Wednesday. "Nothing malicious by any of my teammates, just one of those freak things in football. It's a very violent game. It just happened to me."
Conyers, who spent a few hours at Maryland Shock Trauma Center before being released, said it was the first concussion he had suffered playing football and he had some fleeting concerns about his future.
"Initially it was scary, I won't lie," he said. "My teammates and my athletic trainers, leaving the field on the way to the hospital, reassured me that I was going to be OK, I was having good signs. I'm just honestly blessed and very thankful that I'm able to sit here and talk to you all and continue to be a student here. I'm just happy for my health."
Defensive coordinator Andy Buh said it was difficult to see Conyers on the field not moving after the hit.
"Being a coach, every now and then you get into the situations where you see a hit that your heart kind of drops real quick. It was one of the moments," Buh recalled Wednesday. "In that instance, you kind of stare at it and hope he gets up. In this instance he didn't. … I'm really happy he's back from that injury."
Buh said the team has been monitoring Conyers for "the hits he's been taking in practice" since he returned a little over a week later.
"He seems to be responding pretty well," Buh said of Conyers, who made three tackles in Saturday's 52-13 win over Howard.
The senior from St. Petersburg, Fla. has an appreciation for the team's support staff that helped him get back on the field faster than many thought possible.
"It started with little stretching, moving my neck the way it needs to move for me to play my position, rebuilding the strength," Conyers said. "They did a fantastic job with that. They helped me through every step of the way. They didn't rush me. … I feel like I'm very healthy right now."
Conyers returned to the practice field about a week after the incident and immediately picked up where he left off in the spring in helping him earn one of the two starting safety jobs alongside sophomore Darnell Savage Jr. Conyers had mostly played linebacker last season.
"Every day got a little better," Conyers said. "There was never a time when I doubted my physical ability. The mental process was me getting out there the first day and getting back with my defense. Honestly, I was so happy the first day, I wasn't thinking about the injury. I was so happy to be out there with my brothers."
A converted cornerback and linebacker, Conyers said his versatility has allowed him to adjust to playing safety.
"I just feel with my body size and frame, I say put me in the best position," said Conyers, who is 6 feet 3 and 212 pounds. "Wherever they line me up, I'm going to play hard and give it my all."
While the injury certainly impacted him, so did the academic struggles he had coming out of high school that prevented him from going straight to a four-year school.
"That matured. It helped me mature very fast and take my life seriously, be more responsible in every aspect," said Conyers, who began his college career at Butte College in California.
Ironically, Conyers had first committed to Florida International in Miami, where he still has a couple of high school friends playing for the team and where the Terps will play Friday night.
"I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason," he said. "I believe it was meant for me that God had a plan for me to be here at the University of Maryland. I believe everything with me not going there was meant to be. As a young kid it might have bothered me, but as a growing young man I feel this is the place for me to be. Everything's happened for the best."
Conyers said he received countless words of concern and encouragement almost from the time he was injured last month.
"Plenty of text messages, plenty of phone calls. I don't even know how it got out," he said. "I have friends from back home texting me and calling me about it. I was stunned how many people genuinely care and love me and support me. I'm extremely thankful for everybody. … To this day, everyone is still checking on me. I'm still thankful and grateful for it."