COLLEGE PARK — DeAndre Lane did not do much his first three years at Maryland, where he was buried on the depth chart at slot receiver behind Stefon Diggs and Taivon Jacobs.
Quiet by nature, Lane didn't complain about not fulfilling the promise he showed at Catonsville High. Two major life changes have helped shape the 5-foot-7, 175-pound Lane's senior year.
The first took place when Lane, a week shy of his 20th birthday, became a father in February 2015.
The second happened when DJ Durkin was hired as Maryland's coach last December and Walt Bell was brought in as offensive coordinator.
Going into Saturday's Big Ten opener against Purdue (2-1) at Maryland Stadium, Lane is tied for second on the Terps (3-0) with eight receptions, and third in receiving yards with 98.
Lane, who emerged late last season after coach Randy Edsall was fired, admits that his career had been a struggle for most of his first three years.
"It was hard," Lane said Wednesday. "I kind of kept my head down, kept working, stayed quiet…With Edsall getting fired, Locks [former offensive coordinator and interim head coach Mike Locksley] kind of had this idea that he wanted to play more people to keep people fresh."
Lane credits his resilience to the birth of his daughter, Kylie, and well as her mother, Paige Mitchell, who is still his girlfriend.
"They've been supportive, that's kind of what's kept me going," Lane said. "Even if I ever start to get down a little bit, they'll pick me up. I know I have her [Kylie]. She always puts a smile on my face. I look at her and this is why I'm doing what I'm doing. It kind of flips my mood. I get a whole positive mood about everything."
Given that he and Mitchell had been dating for just three months when they learned she was pregnant, their relationship has grown dramatically as they raise their daughter, with help from their respective families. Kylie lives with Mitchell and her family in Columbia.
"It was kind of something that caught us both by surprise," Lane said. "We decided we should keep it, work together. There've been rough patches, but all together I thought we've done a good job. Our daughter's happy. She's like a really energetic, happy kid. It kind of makes it all worth it at the end of the day."
Mitchell, who turns 21 on Thursday, works full time as a server at a Howard County restaurant. After graduating from Atholton High, Mitchell said she wasn't thinking about going to college. Now she plans to start school after Lane graduates with a degree in criminal justice.
Along with readjusting her own goals, Mitchell has seen a difference in Lane.
"I definitely saw a big change in his maturity level, and mine as well, us being kids and having a kid, it was like, 'What are we supposed to do?'" Mitchell said. "We kind of guided each other through it. He's definitely been a great dad. He loves Kylie to death, he calls her and visits whenever he has free time."
Lane quickly understood his role as a father after Kylie was born.
"I kind of realized life wasn't just about me anymore," he said. "I feel that kind of honestly helped me as far as being a team player. It was like, 'OK, I'm not just doing this for me anymore.' Now with the team, I'm not just playing for me, I have to have their back."
Around the time of his daughter's birth, Lane talked with teammates Quinton Jefferson and Jacobs, both of whom fathered children while playing at Maryland. They told him it wasn't going to be easy.
Lane had another role model when it came to being a young parent – his own mother.
Sharon Cains was 18 and had recently graduated from high school when she gave birth to her son. As a single mother, Cains put herself through Catonsville Community College and the University of Baltimore. Cains now works for Howard County scheduling domestic court cases.
Cains said that the older of her two children is not that much different as a father than he was growing up.
"He's always let his actions speak for him, he just sits there and takes care of his daughter and does what he can," Cains said. "Being away from her is very difficult. He wants to spend as much time as he can. I know he Facetimes, he does what he can, he comes home as much as he can. He overstretches himself as much as he can to be the best student, best player and best father that he can be."
Lane said he had his best academic semester, making the dean's list, right after Kylie was born. He also showed some potential after Edsall was fired, taking advantage of Lockley's philosophy by catching three passes for 63 yards in a 31-24 loss at Wisconsin on Nov. 7, and four passes for 63 yards in a season-ending 46-41 win over Rutgers.
"For me, if the ball comes your way, make a play, show them you can play, so you can earn more playing time," Lane said.
Lane has done that under Durkin and Bell.
Getting to start the season opener against Howard, Lane caught five passes for 73 yards, both career-highs. But after pulling down back-to-back 25-yard receptions from backup quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome in the third quarter, Lane was tackled hard on each.
"After the first one, I kind of felt a little funny," Lane said. "With our offense being up-tempo, I kind of put it to the side. I kept playing. I thought it was one of those 'I've got a headache, it'll go away' situations. But then when I got hit the second time, I could tell something's off."
Lane sat out the second game against Florida International after being diagnosed with a concussion. He returned the following week to catch three passes against Central Florida.
The Terps will play again at home this weekend, meaning Kylie will be watching.
"She actually made it through the game, which was nice," Lane said about his daughter in the season opener. "We tried it last year and she made it through the first quarter. She's talking a little bit more now. She understands football. She'll scream 'Go daddy', stuff like that. Just hearing about that was kind of like special."
Along with the responsibility of fatherhood, Lane has become a leader in the locker room, on the practice field and in the receivers' room for meetings.
"Never says 'boo,' never complains. He's a guy that's always looking to do whatever it takes to make the team better," Bell said Wednesday. "You know he's going to play fast, you know he's going to block, you know he's going to play without the ball and be selfless."
Said Lane, "I'm just trying to take advantage of every opportunity I get. I know the four years went by fast, even with me not playing that much. I know I'm limited to the games I have left in my career. Why not go out there and try to make the best of every one?"