FORESTVILLE -- The time had come for Damian Prince, and he stood behind a lectern, transfixed. A disembodied voice was speaking to him in his ear, and a silence inside the Bishop McNamara High School auditorium lingered uncomfortably. This was live television, an ESPNU broadcast for the nation’s top uncommitted offensive lineman, and the cue for an announcement had yet to come.
It was only a few hours earlier that the tackle knew he was to become the last, and most important, piece of Maryland’s freshly inked recruiting class. He said he went to bed Tuesday unsure of where he would sign on national signing day. He slept well, and when he woke up, he said he was certain.
“All of the schools looked good … but when all of the lights turn down, who’s really going to be there for you?” said Prince, a five-star recruit according to Rivals.com who also considered South Carolina and Florida. “I felt most confident in Maryland.”
Little in Prince’s life has felt certain and secure. In December 1995, his father was shot and killed in Washington. No arrests were ever made.
He moved into the Mitchellville home of his great-grandparents, who raised him as their own. In November 2011, Willie Prince, his great-grandfather and the man he came to call “Dad,” was hit by an oncoming vehicle. Willie, who had pulled over to help jump-start a stalled car, was pronounced dead at the hospital. He was 78.
Football, then, became personal. For the Mustangs’ 2012 season opener, Prince changed his jersey number from No. 55 to No. 79. Willie would have turned 79 that August day.
“He’s a very determined kid for his age,” said McNamara coach Keith Goganious, a former Penn State and NFL linebacker. “Seeing the kind of adversity he’s been through, he’s still been able to remain focused and try and set goals for himself.”
The scholarship offers started to come in — from Alabama, from Florida State, from schools across the country in need of a 6-foot-5, 300-pound road grader.
The Terps were there, too, telling Prince they needed him for their move to the Big Ten Conference, that they wanted the state’s top player to stay home. Prince felt comfortable in College Park. He knew he could help, and soon.
“I know the type of player I am and I know what type of competitor I am,” Prince, a consensus top-40 player nationally, said Wednesday. “And me, as a competitor, I’m not going to go in and want to sit behind anybody.”
Prince initially set his announcement for Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day, before deciding he would instead break hearts on Wednesday, when 16 other Terps commits signed national letters of intent.
At about 10:30 a.m., Prince stood up and moved into view of a phalanx of cameras. Before him were three hats — Maryland, Florida and South Carolina. Stoically, he looked over the rows of friends and family watching him. In came the go-ahead, and then, at last, the decision: He would play for the Terps.
The calm broke, and McNamara students packed in bleachers behind him stood up, roaring. Prince grinned, waiting for whatever came next.
For a list of Baltimore-area prospects who have signed (or plan to sign), CLICK HERE.
The Terps have announced the following signings on their website:
TIME SIGNEE YR POS HT WT 7:00 AM Derwin Gray Fr. OL 6'5 295 7:00 AM Larry Mazyck Jr. OL 6'8 340 7:22 AM Brett Kulka Fr. DL 6'5 235 7:45 AM Will Ulmer Fr. QB 6'0 185 7:54 AM Juwann Winfree Fr. WR 6'2 180 8:07 AM Antwaine Carter Fr.. DB 6'1 180 8:07 AM Andrew Gray Fr. TE 6'4 235 8:26 AM Tyler Burke Fr. LB 6'4 240 8:26 AM Brendan Moore Fr. OL 6'4 285 8:51 AM Jesse Aniebonam Fr. LB 6'5 240 8:51 AM Sean Christie Fr. OL 6'5 280 9:12 AM Daniel Ezeagwu Fr. DB 6'1 200 9:21 AM Nate Adams Fr. LS 6'2 230 9:21 AM Josh Woods Fr. DB 6'2 180 10:14 AM David Shaw Fr. DL 6'5 276 11:08 AM Nnamdi Egbuaba Fr. LB 6'1 216 11:48 AM Damian Prince Fr. OL 6'5 300