Michael Locksley comes home to 'dream job' as Maryland football coach

Citing his desire to be the leader of a Maryland football family with hopes of reviving a mediocre program in terms of its performance and helping the players recover from the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair last June, Michael Locksley was introduced as the new coach of the Terps on Thursday morning.

Calling it “a dream job for me,” Locksley recalled coming to basketball games at Cole Field House and football games at Byrd Stadium during the mid-1980s and thinking about becoming a football coach.

“I grew up rooting for the Terps, and if you know anything about the Terps, man, in the mid-1980s, they were a tough, tough team,” Locksley said. “I’ve always wanted to be a Terp. I wasn’t a good enough football player coming out of Ballou High School so I settled for being a Towson Tiger.”

Flanked by athletic director Damon Evans, who announced Locksley’s hiring Tuesday night, Locksley was joined at the new Cole Field House by members of his family — including his daughter Kory, who was a classmate of McNair’s at McDonogh — as well as many friends, most notably McNair’s father, Marty.

“There’s one person in particular that I have a tremendous relationship with and it means the world to me that he would be here to celebrate this joyous day — my good friend Marty McNair,” Locksley said.

Locksley, 48, and his wife, Kia, lost their then-25-year-old son, Meiko, in September of 2017 in what remains an unsolved homicide in Howard County.

“I appreciate you being here with me,” Locksley said, looking out into the audience at McNair. “Marty and my relationship goes back a long way. We both have tragically lost our kids. I have been a mentor for Marty and Marty has been a sounding board for me the last year and a half as we have worked through the emotions and toughness of losing a child.”

Said Evans: “As you all know, this has been a difficult season for our team. They deserved someone who can bring us together. Someone who understands what they have gone through. Someone who can help and continue to heal after the tragic passing of their teammate, Jordan McNair.”

Locksley, who signed a five-year contract with an option for a sixth worth $2.5 million annually, talked about what he told the Maryland players after meeting with them Thursday morning.

“I told them I’m not just here to build a winning football team, I’m here to build a winning football family,” Locksley said. “The thing about family as we all know, that family name is something that people wear with pride. …

“As I told the team, our family name is Terrapins — Terps for short — when people say it, I want them to say it with some respect. I want our players to be very prideful about that family name and I want us to display and be the program we need to be to make the Terp name proud and successful.”

A former assistant coach under two Maryland coaches, Ron Vanderlinden and Ralph Friedgen, as well as offensive coordinator under Randy Edsall and interim coach for six games in 2015 after Edsall was fired, Locksley returns after spending the past three years at Alabama working for Nick Saban. As offensive coordinator this season, Locksley was named Tuesday as the winner of the 2018 Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant.

While acknowledging his tumultuous three-year career as a head coach at New Mexico, where the team won just two of 28 games and Locksley was involved in a few off-the-field incidents that ultimately contributed to his firing four games into the 2011 season, Locksley said the past three years in Tuscaloosa shaped who he is now.

“I just spent three years saturating and winning and seeing how it’s done right,” Locksley said of his time working under Saban in Tuscaloosa. “I can only hope that I can take just a little bit of what I’ve learned from Coach Saban the past three years to implement and install here at the University of Maryland.”

Evans said what resonated was how many former players he heard from — “It must have been thousands,” the first-year athletic director said with some exaggeration — and how they all talked about what a great mentor, even a father figure, that Locksley had become to many of them.

"It was clear that Coach Locksley doesn’t just consider himself just a coach while the student-athletes are here,” Evans said. “He’s their coach for life. And I know he will continue, as we all do, to put their health, safety and welfare at the forefront of what he does.”

Evans also acknowledged the job done by interim coach Matt Canada and the Terps, who after going through the tragedy of McNair’s death on June 13 after suffering heat stroke at a team conditioning test on May 2, then having former coach DJ Durkin placed on a administrative leave Aug. 11 and eventually fired Oct. 31.

Maryland finished 5-7 under Canada, including a season-opening win over then-No. 23 Texas and nearly beating then-No. 10 Ohio State in College Park on Nov. 17, before losing in overtime, 52-51.

It’s unclear if Canada will remain on the staff.

don.markus@baltsun.com

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