Former McDonogh two-sport star Dante Trader Jr. made a strong first impression on the football field as a true freshman at Maryland this fall.
Looking to build on that early success, he plans to keep his focus there and won’t play lacrosse for the Terps this spring.
The 6-foot, 190-pound safety, who was the 2020-21 Baltimore Sun High School Boys Athlete of the Year, appeared in 12 games this fall, registering 16 tackles, one tackle for loss and one pass break-up while also contributing on special teams. Next fall, he has his eyes on a starting spot.
With starting safeties Nick Cross and Jordan Mosley declaring for the NFL draft, Trader knows playing spring football could be the key to consistent playing time. So Trader has informed the lacrosse team of his plans to stick with football for now.
“It was really me looking forward to the year and knowing the key departures we had, I feel like I want to be able to be in the best position to compete to play more and get more opportunities,” said Trader, a Delmar, Delaware, native who transferred to McDonogh before his junior year. “And at this time, healing up some injuries I’m rehabbing now and just keeping my weight up and getting to hone in on skills that I wouldn’t be getting … so that was basically the decision.”
In his one and only lacrosse season at McDonogh in his senior year — coronavirus concerns wiped out his junior season — Trader was a captain that anchored the team’s midfield with dynamic two-way play. He led the Eagles to an undefeated regular season and was named an Under Armour All-American. Inside Lacrosse rated him the nation’s No. 9 player in the Class of 2021.
But once he arrived at Maryland for summer classes, Trader proved a quick study in getting acclimated to the high intensity of college football.
“Going into camp, everything was as they said it would be — tough and high intensity and everything like that,” he said. “I started from the bottom because you’ve got to prove yourself when you perform. From there, I worked my way up through the rankings — competing, learning, the playbook was a big task of course and just learning from guys like Nick Cross, Beau Brade, Jordan Mosley. Those guys helped me a lot.”
Game time was an entirely new and exciting experience for him. In his career debut against Howard, he notched five tackles.
“Practice prepares you for a lot, but there’s nothing like in-game experience,” he said. “Just getting used to the feeling of being out there, being watched by thousands of people. That and the game is quicker and everything is high intensity, you got to compete and everything like that. Once you get the feeling underneath you — ‘Oh man, I’m really out here playing’ — you start to feel good and get confident about your abilities.”
During the season, Terps football coach Mike Locksley took note of Trader’s emergence.
“He’s been a guy that we’ve continued to develop,” Locksley said then. “He’s played for us in just about every game. He’s become a guy that’s helped us with special teams. I think Dante has a really bright future. He’s one of those guys that’s always around the ball. He’s smart, tough and reliable. We’ve been really happy with the way Dante’s developed. He’s a guy that was on the field against Illinois during crunch time, so he’s building his toolbox and, like I said, has a bright future around here.”
That future, for now, won’t be on the lacrosse field.