It's not uncommon for frustrated college football players to transfer out of major Division I schools after spring practices. There are some well-documented success stories of players moving down from the Football Bowl Subdivision, to excel in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Unlike the typical FBS transfer, Towson University junior wide receiver Jacquille Veii didn't make the move because he was unhappy with his playing time at the University of Maryland, where he was a running back. Instead, Veii said he was frustrated because his development as an athlete lacked direction.
"I came in there, I told myself I was going to work hard and earn everything," Veii said, "and I did that. I learned everything. I did everything they asked me to do. I did the right things. I put my heart in it. I put my soul in it. I worked really hard, and I didn't get the results that I was expecting, and that frustrated me, because I put my all into it."
A product of The Avalon School in Gaithersburg, Md., Veii has proved himself a versatile athlete since high school. His resume includes a decorated senior high school season during which he registered 744 yards and nine touchdowns rushing. He also racked up 228 yards and three touchdowns on 20 catches to go with four interceptions.
At Maryland, 5-foot-9, 187-pound Veii was moved from running back to wide receiver prior to the 2014 season, but he still ran the ball 39 times. A diligent worker, Veii dedicated himself to the wide receiver position, where he caught 16 passes for 230 yards and a touchdown. Changing his body to better suit the mechanics needed to be a legitimate Division I wide receiver, he was frustrated when he arrived for spring practice and found he was again listed as a running back.
"I pretty much felt like I was there to just be a replacement guy," Veii said. "It was a blessing and a curse, my versatility. Since I was so versatile, they felt like they could just use me as a chess piece and just put me wherever they wanted me to be, without really having a plan for me. So I decided to take my talents elsewhere."
With the decision to transfer made, Veii chose Towson so he could get on the field and go to work right away. According to Towson offensive coordinator Jared Ambrose, it seems Veii will not have the same frustrations at his new program regarding the direction of his development.
"One thing we do when we bring guys in that could be transitional players, we let them pick what they want to play," Ambrose said. "They made a decision to transfer here. We want them to start off on the right foot and in the position they feel best at. Jacquille, when we asked him, said, ‘I want to play wide receiver.' And I told him off the bat, you will be a wide receiver first, but there are going to be times when we give you the ball in the backfield, and he said that was great.
"I think the thing he had a problem with at Maryland was they were kind of wishy-washy on whether he was going to be a receiver or a running back. And we like to go with absolute clarity with our kids, so there's no misunderstanding of where they're going to play."
Ambrose is heavily involved in the recruiting process along with his older brother, Rob, Towson's head football coach. The fact that Veii was a local athlete helped Towson connect with him through his high school coaches.
"We had extensive knowledge of his background since he was in high school," Jared Ambrose said. "Quite frankly, we haven't had a lot of Terps call for one reason or another. Maybe, I don't know if it's a less than favorable experience with Coach [Randy] Edsall, and then they figure Rob is cut from the same cloth, because they worked together at Connecticut for so long. But it just seemed to make sense. We needed another guy on the roster who could really fly, and Jacquille certainly is that. Everything lined up for us, because we had, like I said, so much knowledge on who he was prior to even being a Terp -- we felt comfortable in that decision."
Both Rob and Jared Ambrose have been impressed with Veii as an athlete. At the NFL Combine, Veii ran the 40-yard dash in 4.49 seconds. But with every compliment given to his abilities on the field, his personality and work ethic always seem to overshadow his physical gifts.
"His best quality on the field is his work ethic," Jared Ambrose said. "A lot of [Division] I-A transfers come in with the notion that they're a step above everyone else, because they came from a big program. He doesn't seem to think that at all. As soon as he puts a helmet on and gets on the field, he just busts his [butt], and that goes a lot further than talent."
While many elite athletes motivate themselves through an extreme sense of self-confidence, both the Ambroses and Veii himself describe the junior wideout as a humble worker. This shared vision could be key, as Veii and the Towson coaching staff look forward to a prosperous career with Veii in a Towson uniform.
"I like to [motivate myself] by production and seeing things physically happen," Veii said. "If I prove that I am the best, then I have the right to say that. But if I don't prove it, I don't have that right, and I have to keep quiet. But me, I'm just a humble guy. So whether I know it or don't know it, I'm not going to proclaim it to the world. I'm just going to keep that to myself and keep proving that day in and day out."