COLLEGE PARK – The Michael Locksley era at the University of Maryland has officially begun.
After an introductory press conference announcing Locksley’s hire as Maryland football’s new head coach on Dec. 6, the former University of Alabama offensive coordinator has started making his mark.
As part of his philosophy of keeping the area’s best players, one of Prince George’s County’s top prospects switched his college commitment to join the Terrapins while a local champion high school coach announced his decision to be a part of Locksley’s staff.
First, Dr. Henry Wise Jr. High School wide receiver Isaiah Hazel confirmed on his Twitter page his decision to de-commit from West Virginia and become Maryland’s first commit flip under the new coaching regime on Dec. 12. The six-foot-one, 197-pound four-star recruit finished his senior year with a career-high in reception yards (428) and five touchdowns.
“Take me home where I belong,” Hazel said on a Twitter post.
On the same day, DeMatha Catholic High School Head Coach Elijah Brooks announced that he will be leaving the program to become Maryland’s new running back coach. Brooks has led the Stags from 2011-2018, where they won four Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championships.
“No way I can thank the DeMatha family enough for the wonderful experiences and memories we have had on this journey together. I love you all more than you will ever know. Excited for the next chapter,” said Brooks on his Instagram announcement post.
Both additions plus the recruitment of Good Counsel High School offensive tackle Mason Lunsford ends a strong week for Locksley before he returns to Tuscaloosa to prepare the Crimson Tide for their College Football Playoff game against Oklahoma on Dec. 29. He stressed the importance of keeping top players local to play out their college careers during the Dec. 6 press conference.
“If we keep the gates around the DMV and we get the top players in this area to buy in to staying here at home and building this thing from the ground up together, there’s nowhere in the country we can’t go compete with the best,” Locksley said.
In his third stint with the university, Locksley becomes the first African American head coach hired in Maryland’s history. He was honored with the 2018 Broyles Award, given to the nation’s top assistant coach, on Dec. 4 as top-ranked Alabama finished their regular season undefeated.
His hire puts a temporary end to an over six-month saga that consumed Maryland since offensive lineman Jordan McNair died on June 13 after suffering a heat stroke during an offseason workout.
Investigations into his death and the culture surrounding the football program were conducted in August, leading to the removal of its strength and conditioning coach and members of the medical team.
A day after the Board of Regents announced their support to retain Head Coach DJ Durkin, school President Wallace Loh dismissed him on Oct. 31 amidst a public backlash on the decision. Board officials provided few details on their decision-making to members of the Maryland General Assembly in a public meeting with on Nov. 15.
This will be Locksley’s first head coaching job since taking charge of New Mexico from 2009-2011. The Lobos went 2-26 during his tenor and faced several off-the-field incidents, including a physical altercation with an assistant coach and a separate discrimination lawsuit that was dismissed. Despite his coaching past, Locksley assured school officials during the interview process that he has learned from his previous experiences.
“He indicated what he had learned and you can just see in him where he was then, which was 8-10 years ago to where he is now,” Athletic Director Damon Evans said. “He’s had a lot of life lessons as we’ve all have. (He is) well-vetted and I could not be prouder than to have him sitting right next to me on this stage.”
Locksley’s work as a college recruiter has earned several supporters, including from area high school coaches. They expressed their support for Locksley’s hire on social media as well as by attending the press conference for moral support.
“He brings in an honesty to the process,” Eleanor Roosevelt High School Head Coach Thomas Green said. “He evaluates your kids, tells you exactly where they are and he is straight-up honest with the kids. I know he said that he is going to treat his Maryland kids like his kids, but he’s always been like that and made sure that they are successful on the field and in the classroom. That is big when you send your child to college and they come home with a degree.”
Locksley will be tasked to bring stability to Maryland after a 5-7 season where they lost their last four games under interim head coach Matt Canada.
“I know it will take some hard work, it will take some great effort – it will take this community getting behind the program and the players in this area staying home and developing that sense of pride back in wearing a Terp jersey,” Locksley said. “I love building, I am a builder by nature and this is a great opportunity and the timing was just perfect for me now.”