Dino Tomlin’s verbal commitment to Maryland came Nov. 6, 10 days after he sat in the stands in College Park watching the Terps dismantle Illinois, 63-33.
It also was a week after third-year coach DJ Durkin was reinstated before being fired a day later.
While there was some uncertainty about who would replace Durkin, the turmoil surrounding the program in the aftermath of offensive lineman Jordan McNair’s death didn’t factor into Tomlin’s decision.
“When they fired Durkin, that didn’t play as much a role in my process,” Tomlin said Thursday. “I picked it more for the place than the people.”
On Wednesday, the oldest of Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin’s three children became one of six high school prospects to sign with the Terps and new coach Michael Locksley.
Tomlin, a 6-foot, 165-pound wide receiver and return specialist who is also Pennsylvania’s reigning Class 2A 300-meter hurdles champion, chose Maryland over mostly non-Power 5 schools.
As much interest as he had had from Ivy League schools — all but Penn and Harvard recruited him — the younger Tomlin knows that football is why he wanted to play for the Terps.
“School’s important, but I’m going to spend most of my time playing football,” said Tomlin, who hopes to get into Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. “My goal is to play in the National Football League. Going to the Ivies, it wouldn’t make that impossible but it would be limiting what I’d be able to do.”
Tomlin also wasn’t deterred by the fact that most of his college career will likely be spent playing in a rebuilding program that now is recovering from the death of one of its players.
The year he came to Shady Side Academy in Pittsburgh, the team didn’t win a game. This past fall, the Indians finished 10-1 and won its conference.
“Watching [the Terps] play, and seeing the potential to grow, I thought the program was moving up,” said Tomlin, who also was there to watch Maryland’s 42-13 win over Minnesota. “Especially with the new coach now, I think it’s only going to be up from here. … I feel that if I work hard enough, with the right people there, everything will be all right.”
Tomlin, whose uncle Ed played safety at Maryland and was a co-captain on the 1989 team, sees some similarity between Locksley and his father.
“His demeanor, he’s similar to how much father is,” Tomlin said. “I’m sure they coach differently, but I feel they have the same sort of mentality.”
Locksley said in a teleconference with reporters Wednesday that he liked Tomlin’s bloodlines.
“I have an affinity for coaches’ kids,” Locksley said. “I think they get it. Him growing up in the game with his dad … he gets the work ethic it takes, the skill level it takes. I was excited that he had committed. I was excited to get him signed. He’s also the student council president. He’s one of those well-rounded student-athletes you want in your program.”
While he hasn’t spent a lot of time breaking down film with his father, Tomlin said that “most of the things he taught me were how to go about doing my business.”
“In comparison to others, I feel like I’m mentally tougher than others, more coachable than I’d say some of my other peers that I’ve come across,” he said.
Tomlin said he doesn’t take criticism from coaches personally.
“I don’t take it as a knock on my game [but] as something that helps me improve and get better, or it helps the team,” he said.
As a senior, Tomlin caught 30 passes for 967 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also scored seven other touchdowns either rushing, returning kicks and punts or on defense.
Locksley said Tomlin was a “player that showed some big-play ability on film.”
With the Terps losing both kick returner Ty Johnson and punt returner Taivon Jacobs, Tomlin might be able to get on the field as a freshman on special teams.
“As a returner, I think he can make an impact right away on special teams, and as a receiver as well,” Shady Side coach Chuck DiNardo said Wednesday. “He’s got great straight-line speed. He’s a deep threat.”
Tomlin said he is considering redshirting as a freshman in order to get bigger, stronger and possibly faster. He believes his immediate future on offense is as a slot receiver, but much depends on his physical development.
“I know that as of right now, physically, I’m not ready,” he said. “I’m in the process of getting ready. My plan is to be ready [to play as a freshman].”
Asked how he feels about going to play for a team that is followed by a lot of Ravens fans, Tomlin said, “That’s cool, I guess. If I start dropping balls, they’ll hate me. I’m not too worried about it.”
NOTES: Corey Robinson and John Papuchis have joined Locksley’s staff, a university spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday. Though neither Locksley nor the athletic department have announced any assistant coaching hires, it has been reported by multiple media outlets that Robinson will likely coach defensive backs as he did last season at Rutgers and Papuchis, the former defensive coordinator at North Carolina, will be the special teams coordinator and linebackers coach. Both have local times, with Robinson having coached at Calvert Hall and Papuchis at Quince Orchard High in Gaithersburg.