Morgan State left tackle Lawrence Brewer might have been a Maryland Terrapin, if not for a little bad luck.
Brewer suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee during a game midway through his junior season at Friendly High in Fort Washington that drove the recruiting efforts of Maryland and other Atlantic Coast Conference and Big East schools to a halt. Sidelined during a pivotal portion of the recruiting process, Brewer began to doubt his future in college football.
But Bears coach Donald Hill-Eley didn't back off, pursuing the three-sport high school star until he committed to Morgan. And on Saturday, the redshirt junior will lead Morgan in its first-ever meeting with the Terps.
"To once be recruited by them and then to be not recruited by them and then to be from the state of Maryland and have a chance to go and play in a stadium where you've had your camps, I think he has a lot to prove," Hill-Eley said.
Brewer wishes not to dwell on what could have been in the ACC, but acknowledges that his college career had the potential to be much different. After leading Friendly to a perfect season and the Class 3A state championship as a senior in 2006, Brewer included Maryland, along with Virginia and Louisville, among others, on his list of potential schools.
"People always think that teams that overlook you, you want to show them what they missed out on," Brewer said. "But, really, I'm just going to play them like I play anybody else. I really don't think anybody can do anything to take me out of my game. I'm just going to play my game."
The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference named Brewer its Offensive Lineman of the Week after he anchored a Morgan offensive line that didn't allow a sack in a 14-7 victory over Bowie State at Hughes Stadium last Saturday. Brewer was also a preseason second-team All-MEAC selection and was named to the 2010 Commissioner's All-Academic Team. Morgan offensive line coach Joe Wright said these attributes led the coaching staff to name Brewer as one of four team captains for the second consecutive year.
"He's been a leader since he got here, by example," Wright said. "He has an excellent work ethic in the offseason and during the season. He gets pretty much all As, he's everywhere he's supposed to be. He's definitely a leader on our team."
Hill-Eley first noticed Brewer's dedication when he graduated early from Friendly in December 2006 and began working out with the Bears just a few weeks later. Though he first arrived on Morgan's campus weighing 245 pounds, Brewer quickly added muscle and now stands as one of the Bears' largest players at 6 feet 5, 290 pounds.
"Everyone notices hard work as long as you work hard and put forth your best effort," Hill-Eley said. "He's just getting the fruit from his labor."
On Saturday, the Bears will face a Maryland squad that is coming off an impressive defensive performance against Navy, holding the Midshipmen scoreless in five red-zone attempts in a 17-14 victory at M&T Bank Stadium. To be part of the two schools' first meeting holds special weight for Morgan's coach.
"To be able to play one of your bowl representative schools, it's always major," Hill-Eley said. "That's the bottom line when it comes to athletics and to the university. To be able to take a school like Morgan and go up against Maryland for the first time, it's just unbelievable with how big even this can be."
For Brewer, Saturday's matchup isn't all about proving his skeptics wrong. A strong showing against the Terps will help determine the direction of the Bears going forward.
"We don't think of them as any type of superstars," Brewer said. "If anything, I think it would be a gauge of how we think our season will go. If we can dominate in this game, we can dominate anybody in our league."